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Democrat, nonpartisan face off in Washington's secretary of state race

Nonpartisan and Democratic challengers are vying to win what was formerly a Republican stronghold in Washington with the secretary of state election.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Nonpartisan and Democratic challengers are vying to win what was formerly a Republican stronghold in Washington with the secretary of state election.

Incumbent Secretary of State and Democrat Steve Hobbs was appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee to assume the role when Kim Wyman, a Republican who formerly held the position, left the office in November of 2021. 

Republicans previously held the Secretary of State Office in Washington dating back to 1964. 

The secretary of state is Washington's chief election official, chief corporations officer and supervisor of the state archives. 

Hobbs and nonpartisan challenger Julie Anderson, the current chief election official for Pierce County, are competing to serve the remaining two years of Wyman's four-year term. 

KING 5 political analyst and former Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna said this could be the first time someone is running as a nonpartisan on a statewide level. 

Anderson said she is not accepting endorsements or donations from either political party and believes the person overseeing state elections shouldn't "be wearing a team jersey." 

"It will be a very interesting experiment in whether or not you can run and win or even be competitive as a nonpartisan, prefers no party candidate," McKenna said following the August primary elections. 

McKenna also noted winning this election could give the incumbent a boost in 2024 when more voters are expected to turn out for the presidential election. 

KING 5 political analyst and former Washington Governor Gary Locke said the Secretary of State seat is a position the Democratic party has long wanted, however, Republican candidates have held the office for decades.

"It shows, how many times in Washington people oftentimes really vote by the strength of the candidate and not necessarily by the party," Locke said. "Nonetheless this would be a great opportunity to extend the Democratic reach to more statewide offices and we got two good candidates quite frankly."

In the primary election, Hobbs won 40% of the vote with Anderson in second at 13%.

Before Hobbs was appointed to the Secretary of State position, he was a senator for the 44th Legislative District representing Snohomish County. He was first elected in 2006. He is also a lieutenant colonel in the Washington Army National Guard. In 2020 he was mobilized to command 750 service members during Washington's COVID-19 response. He was responsible for all Guard personnel located at western Washington food banks from Skagit County to Pierce County. 

Hobbs said he is focusing on ensuring elections are secure and accessible to every eligible voter. Hobbs said he is prepared to lead the state through election security challenges as cybersecurity threats and attacks become more sophisticated.

When asked if Hobbs was intimidated running against a nonpartisan for an office that has historically been held by Republicans, he said he wasn't concerned. 

"The great thing about this office is it has been run by individuals who can work across the aisle in a bipartisan manner. The last three secretaries of state were partisan, they're Republican and they were respected, and I'm in the same position," Hobbs said. "... You know I'm not going to back away from being a Democrat, I am pro-choice pro-environment, pro-labor, but I can still work across the aisle which I've done on many many occasions."

WATCH: KING 5's full interview with Incumbent Secretary of State Steve Hobbs

Anderson has served three terms as the Pierce County Auditor overseeing elections, licensing and public document recording. Prior to being elected, Anderson was a senior policy advisor for the Washington State Department of Commerce as well as a member of the Tacoma City Council. She was also the Executive Director for the YWCA for Tacoma-Pierce County managing one of the country's largest domestic violence shelters. 

Anderson pointed to her experience running the Pierce County Auditor's Office for the past 12 years where she worked to increase voter access, enhance election security and improve auditing procedures. Anderson holds national and state certifications in election administration and is a certified public records officer. 

Anderson said she finds joy in the minute details of records keeping and election security work and believes voters will want someone who has a handle on the technical aspects of the Secretary of State position.

"I love making government work for people and I love the detail, the accuracy, the precision, the technology, and taking that to scale and being responsible on a statewide level, knowing how important the secretary of state is to all the county offices, is just something I'm called to do," Anderson said in an interview with KING 5.

WATCH: KING 5's full interview with Secretary of State Candidate Julie Anderson

Hobbs and Anderson will debate in Spokane on Oct. 23 at 3:30 p.m. The Oct. 23 debate is organized by the League of Women Voters and The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages speaker series.

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