Kim Wyman speaking at a WWRC breakfast
Secretary of State Kim Wyman speaks at a breakfast for the Washington Wildlife & Recreation Coalition (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

The most close­ly con­test­ed race for a statewide posi­tion in Wash­ing­ton this year isn’t for Gov­er­nor, Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor, or Attor­ney Gen­er­al, but for Sec­re­tary of State, the office respon­si­ble for the admin­is­tra­tion of Wash­ing­ton’s elec­tions, archives, library, cor­po­ra­tions and char­i­ties, and address con­fi­den­tial­i­ty program.

Two can­di­dates made it through to the Novem­ber 2020 gen­er­al elec­tion: Repub­li­can incum­bent Kim Wyman and Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Gael Tar­leton, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute’s most senior boardmember.

Like Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee and Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son, Wyman is seek­ing a third term, hav­ing won her first statewide cam­paign in 2012 when her pre­de­ces­sor Sam Reed retired. She placed first in the August Top Two elec­tion with 50.89%, win­ning every coun­ty except for King, San Juan, and Jefferson.

Wyman still has the edge in the race, accord­ing to our research, but the race has got­ten clos­er. 49% of respon­dents to our sur­vey said they were vot­ing for Wyman, while 43% said they were vot­ing for Tar­leton and 8% were not sure.

Wyman had a 7.6 advan­tage in the August Top Two elec­tion, and a recent Sur­veyUSA poll con­duct­ed for KING5 found her with a five point lead, though that poll put Wyman’s share of the vote at only 45%, as opposed to 49%.

Since we now have mul­ti­ple statewide polls show­ing a clos­er race than what we saw in the August Top Two elec­tion results, it’s fair to say that Tar­leton is gain­ing ground. To win, how­ev­er, she’ll need to quick­en the pace of her progress.

Vot­ing is under­way; 17.6% of bal­lots statewide have already been returned fol­low­ing the first week­end with­in the tra­di­tion­al eigh­teen day vot­ing period.

At this same junc­ture in 2016, only 6.2% of bal­lots had been returned across the state, accord­ing to a data com­par­i­son pro­vid­ed by Wyman’s office on its bal­lot return sta­tis­tics page. The rate of return this cycle is almost three times that right now, which demon­strates that peo­ple are heed­ing exhor­ta­tions to vote early.

Here are the num­bers again, and the exact ques­tion we asked:

QUESTION: The 2020 can­di­dates for Sec­re­tary of State are Demo­c­rat Gael Tar­leton and Repub­li­can Kim Wyman. Who are you vot­ing for?


  • Gael Tar­leton: 43%
  • Kim Wyman: 49%
  • Not sure: 8%

Our sur­vey of six hun­dred and ten like­ly 2020 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Wednes­day, Octo­ber 14th through Thurs­day, Octo­ber 15th.

It uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines and text mes­sage answers from cell phone only respondents.

The poll was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 4.0% at the 95% con­fi­dence level.

As a Repub­li­can in a state that usu­al­ly votes for Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates, Kim Wyman is no stranger to close statewide elections.

Her first win for Sec­re­tary of State was in 2012, when she won by 21,873 votes out of 2,907,609 total votes cast, with just 50.38% of the vote.

Wyman nar­row­ly defeat­ed for­mer State Sen­a­tor Kath­leen Drew to extend the Repub­li­can Par­ty’s win­ning streak for the posi­tion, which goes back decades.

Wyman won a sec­ond term four years ago by a wider mar­gin, hand­i­ly defeat­ing for­mer Seat­tle City Coun­cilmem­ber Tina Pod­lodows­ki, who sub­se­quent­ly became the Chair of the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Party.

Wyman has two main cam­paign themes this year: Expe­ri­ence (which has been a theme in each of her past cam­paigns) and “non­par­ti­san­ship” (despite her record of enthu­si­as­tic par­tic­i­pa­tion in Repub­li­can Par­ty pol­i­tics).

Watch Wyman’s gen­er­al elec­tion TV ad, “Plan”, by click­ing Play below.

NPI’s Gael Tar­leton’s cam­paign themes are bol­ster­ing cyber­se­cu­ri­ty, strength­en­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion, and improv­ing access to the bal­lot. She is deeply con­cerned about for­eign inter­fer­ence in our elec­tions, and says Wyman has­n’t done any­where near enough to pro­tect Wash­ing­ton’s data and vot­ing infra­struc­ture from bad actors.

Tar­leton’s gen­er­al elec­tion spot points out that Wyman has stat­ed that it isn’t her job to stand up to Don­ald Trump, who is unques­tion­ably the top domes­tic threat to efforts to hold free and fair elec­tions in 2020.

Watch Tar­leton’s gen­er­al elec­tion TV ad, “Defend”, by click­ing Play below.

Vot­ing in the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion is cur­rent­ly in progress and is set to con­clude on Novem­ber 3rd, 2020 at 8 PM Pacif­ic in Wash­ing­ton State.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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