NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, December 23rd, 2019

Jeff Winmill talks to NPI about his decision to back Gael Tarleton for Secretary of State

Attor­ney Jeff Win­mill announced last week that he was sus­pend­ing his cam­paign for Sec­re­tary of State (one of nine statewide exec­u­tive depart­ment posi­tions that Wash­ing­ton vot­ers must fill in pres­i­den­tial elec­tion years) to allow NPI’s Gael Tar­leton to unite the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty in her chal­lenge to Repub­li­can Kim Wyman. This is a move Win­mill believes is in the best inter­est of recap­tur­ing the office.

Win­mill has been active in Demo­c­ra­t­ic pol­i­tics for years.

After work­ing as an ener­gy attor­ney, he sup­port­ed Pres­i­dent Obama’s first pres­i­den­tial cam­paign in 2008 and then served as legal coun­sel for bal­lot access dur­ing the sub­se­quent 2012 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. He also served as the Direc­tor of Vot­er Pro­tec­tion for the Wash­ing­ton State Democ­rats last year, work­ing to pro­tect access to the bal­lot dur­ing the 2018 midterm elec­tions.

Thanks to this work, Win­mill saw first­hand the dis­par­i­ties between Wash­ing­ton coun­ties with respect to access and ease of par­tic­i­pa­tion. He told NPI that it’s one of the rea­sons he decid­ed to run for Sec­re­tary of State.

“One of the big things I noticed was the resource dis­par­i­ties between coun­ties when it comes to elec­tion admin­is­tra­tion,” he said.

“If coun­ties don’t have the resources to effec­tive­ly imple­ment their elec­tions, then it’s people’s vot­ing rights that are affect­ed.”

Win­mill believes the Sec­re­tary of State should make it pri­or­i­ty to ensure all coun­ties have the resources to prop­er­ly and effec­tive­ly stage elec­tions.

(At NPI, we’re fond of say­ing that elec­tions are a pub­lic ser­vice just like roads, police and fire pro­tec­tion, parks, schools, and libraries. And just like any of those essen­tial ser­vices, elec­tions cost mon­ey to hold.)

Win­mill decid­ed to chal­lenge the incum­bent, Kim Wyman, after he saw her mak­ing deci­sions that were not in the best inter­est of Wash­ing­ton vot­ers, such as when she agreed to pro­vide some Wash­ing­ton vot­er data request­ed by Don­ald Trump’s bogus com­mis­sion on vot­er fraud fol­low­ing the 2016 elec­tion.

“I thought that was a scary sign and some­thing that should have been reeval­u­at­ed from her office,” he said. (A major­i­ty of states around the coun­try rebuffed requests in part or in full from the com­mis­sion, which Trump lat­er dis­man­tled.)

Win­mill says he also expects the Sec­re­tary of State to advo­cate for fed­er­al leg­is­la­tion to get more cyber­se­cu­ri­ty assis­tance, which he says Kim Wyman failed to do when she tes­ti­fied against H.R. 1, the For the Peo­ple Act of 2019. Wyman claimed H.R. 1 would actu­al­ly hin­der Washington’s progress on elec­tion secu­ri­ty.

Win­mill not­ed that H.R. 1 seeks to imple­ment an auto­mat­ic vot­er reg­is­tra­tion stan­dard that goes above and beyond the sys­tem that Wash­ing­ton has cre­at­ed.

The bill also includes a host of pro­vi­sions intend­ed to pro­tect the right to vote across the coun­try, includ­ing fund­ing for cyber­se­cu­ri­ty mea­sures, pro­hi­bi­tions against for­eign nation­als adver­tis­ing on social media, as well as a require­ment that the Pres­i­dent have a nation­al strat­e­gy for elec­tion pro­tec­tion.

H.R. 1 was passed by the US House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in March 2019 and has yet to be con­sid­ered in the Unit­ed States Sen­ate. It’s one of hun­dreds of bills that is sit­ting on top Repub­li­can Mitch McConnel­l’s desk.

Win­mill felt strong­ly that a Demo­c­rat had to be in the 2020 race for Sec­re­tary of State. At the time he declared, no oth­er Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger had stepped for­ward to take on Wyman. But this month, NPI’s Gael Tar­leton, a vet­er­an can­di­date and elect­ed offi­cial, announced that she would seek the posi­tion.

Win­mill sus­pend­ed his cam­paign because he did not think it would be use­ful or pro­duc­tive for more than one Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date to be com­pet­ing for the par­ty’s sup­port in a race the par­ty has failed to win for over half a cen­tu­ry.

“Gael is a respect­ed pub­lic ser­vant in the state and has a lot of expe­ri­ence that will trans­late very well to the office,” he said.

While also con­tin­u­ing to prac­tice law, Win­mill says he will now advise Gael’s cam­paign on pol­i­cy issues going for­ward.

“I’ll con­tin­ue to advo­cate for improve­ments to our vot­ing sys­tems and I’ll try to help Gael win so we can imple­ment them,” he said.

He says his biggest hope for the office of Sec­re­tary of State, should Gael be elect­ed, is for the office to be mod­ern­ized, argu­ing that “in many ways, Kim Wyman is a twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry Sec­re­tary of State”. His hope is that “Gael will bring the Sec­re­tary of State’s office into the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry.”

This is how, he believes, Wash­ing­ton can com­bat the “new nor­mal” in pol­i­tics, which entails rec­og­niz­ing and address­ing cyber­se­cu­ri­ty threats from abroad.

Win­mill added that bad actors have made vot­ing “anoth­er front in the polit­i­cal wars”. “[Our elec­tions] should be about poli­cies and ideas,” he said.

By mod­ern­iz­ing the elec­tion office and hard­en­ing the state’s elec­tions  infra­struc­ture, he believes Wash­ing­ton can be a nation­al leader on elec­tion secu­ri­ty.

Offi­cial fil­ing for Sec­re­tary of State and oth­er posi­tions to be con­test­ed in the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tions will begin in about five months.

After that, the field of can­di­dates for every posi­tion will be nar­rowed to two each in the August 2020 Top Two elec­tion. Vot­ers will make the final selec­tion in the Novem­ber gen­er­al elec­tion runoff and the win­ner will take office in Jan­u­ary 2021.

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