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Democrat Hobbs has an early lead in the race for secretary of state

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Democrats are trying to win the secretary of state election for the first time in six decades after Republicans failed to advance a candidate in the primary.

Incumbent Democratic Secretary of State Steve Hobbs narrowly edged nonpartisan Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson in Tuesday’s general election. With more than 1.6 million votes counted statewide, Hobbs received just over 50 percent to Anderson’s nearly 47 percent. Thousands of votes would be counted in the coming days, and it was too early to call the race.

In August, Republicans were barred from the state’s top two primaries.

Hobbs was appointed by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee last November to replace Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman when she took a key election security post in the Biden administration.

Although his appointment marked the first time a Democrat had taken office since the mid-1960s, Hobbs had yet to face voters. That election will determine who will serve the final two years of Wyman’s term.

Analysts say GOP candidate Brad Clippert’s write-in campaign has caused additional uncertainty. His name was not on the ballot, but he was endorsed by the state Republican Party and could potentially have enough votes to sway the tight race between Hobbs and Anderson. As of Tuesday night, write-in candidates had about 3 percent of the vote.

Unlike Wyman, who praised the state’s election system and security, Clippert is among those who repeat election fraud conspiracies and want to repeal the state’s vote-by-mail system and require in-person voting.

Hobbs, who previously served in the state senate, led the way in fundraising, raising more than twice as much money as Anderson in the special election.

Hobbs said his experience in office last year — including overseeing the state’s primary and two special elections — should instill confidence in voters to allow him to serve the next two years.

Anderson, who has been the Pierce County auditor for nearly 13 years, said she is “battle-tested and ready to go.”

Hobbs said his previous service in the U.S. Army and his current job as a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard have prepared him for the challenges election officials will face on a range of issues, from cybersecurity issues to misinformation and disinformation during elections. Hobbs, who is of Japanese descent, also notes that he is the first person of color to hold the position and said he is best suited to represent and engage with underrepresented communities.

In response, Anderson points to her support, which includes more than two dozen county auditors from a variety of political backgrounds, two current Democratic state senators and former Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed.

She said she knew running without a party label and not taking party money would be a challenge in a race where voters are used to seeing both parties on the ballot, but said it was “time to take the drama out of this position and politically neutralize this office.”

There have been no nonpartisan secretaries of state in Washington, but the last non-Republican or Democrat was Will Jenkins, a Populist who was elected in 1896 and served one term.

In addition to overseeing state elections, the secretary of state also serves as the chief executive officer of the corporation and oversees the state archives and state library.

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