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.