Secretary of State poll finding (February 2022)
Visualization of NPI's poll finding for Secretary of State, February 2022

This year, in addi­tion to con­tests for the Unit­ed States Sen­ate and Wash­ing­ton’s Supreme Court, vot­ers in the Ever­green State will see some­thing they don’t nor­mal­ly see on midterm bal­lots: a spe­cial elec­tion for Sec­re­tary of State.

The posi­tion of Sec­re­tary of State is one of nine inde­pen­dent­ly elect­ed statewide posts in the exec­u­tive depart­ment. The Sec­re­tary of State’s port­fo­lio of respon­si­bil­i­ties includes the admin­is­tra­tion of elec­tions, the state library and archives, cor­po­rate and char­i­ta­ble reg­is­tra­tions, and the apos­tilles program.

All hold­ers of exec­u­tive depart­ment posi­tions in Wash­ing­ton serve four year terms, and their reg­u­lar­ly sched­uled elec­tions are in pres­i­den­tial years. Res­ig­na­tions from statewide exec­u­tive posi­tions are rare, which is why it has been a long, long time since an exec­u­tive depart­ment posi­tion was con­test­ed in a midterm elec­tion in Wash­ing­ton State. But it will hap­pen this year, owing to Kim Wyman’s depar­ture to take a job in the Biden admin­is­tra­tion last autumn.

Wyman’s suc­ces­sor Steve Hobbs, a for­mer state sen­a­tor, is the first Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sec­re­tary of State in over fifty years. Hobbs was appoint­ed by Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee short­ly after Wyman announced that she was tak­ing a job with the Cyber­se­cu­ri­ty and Infra­struc­ture Secu­ri­ty Agency (CISA). He took office on Novem­ber xth, 2021.

Hobbs is run­ning to keep the seat in Demo­c­ra­t­ic hands this autumn, and he’s drawn two cred­i­ble chal­lengers so far: for­mer Sen­ate col­league Kei­th Wag­oner (R‑39th Dis­trict: Sno­homish Coun­ty, Skag­it Coun­ty, rur­al King Coun­ty) and Pierce Coun­ty Audi­tor Julie Ander­son, who is run­ning as an independent.

With the field hav­ing tak­en shape, we asked vot­ers par­tic­i­pat­ing in our most recent statewide research poll (con­duct­ed Feb­ru­ary 17th-18th) who they would vote for if the elec­tion for Sec­re­tary of State were being held now.

A nar­row plu­ral­i­ty of respon­dents (33%) said they would vote for Hobbs, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic incum­bent, while almost as many said Wag­oner (30%), his Repub­li­can chal­lenger. Ander­son, the inde­pen­dent, gar­nered 11%, and 25% were not sure.

Secretary of State poll finding (February 2022)
Visu­al­iza­tion of NPI’s poll find­ing for Sec­re­tary of State, Feb­ru­ary 2022

The can­di­dates’ col­lec­tive lack of name famil­iar­i­ty and Ander­son­’s pres­ence in the race could explain why a quar­ter of respon­dents were unde­cid­ed. It’s not uncom­mon for “non­par­ti­san” races to have high num­bers of unde­cid­ed vot­ers in advance of an elec­tion, but par­ti­san races usu­al­ly have few­er unde­cid­ed voters.

None of the con­tenders have appeared on a statewide gen­er­al elec­tion bal­lot before. Hobbs has pre­vi­ous­ly run statewide (for Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor in 2016), but was elim­i­nat­ed in the Top Two elec­tion. Ander­son has run coun­ty­wide in Pierce Coun­ty, but not statewide. Wag­oner has appeared on bal­lots only at the local lev­el (in the Skag­it Val­ley city of Sedro-Wool­ley) and leg­isla­tive dis­trict level.

Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates usu­al­ly have an advan­tage in statewide races in Wash­ing­ton, but many vot­ers here (par­tic­u­lar­ly those in Thurston, Sno­homish and Pierce coun­ties) are used to vot­ing Repub­li­can for Sec­re­tary of State, and 2022 is a midterm cycle, rather than a pres­i­den­tial one.

Those dynam­ics could yield a com­pet­i­tive race this sum­mer and autumn.

Hobbs and Wag­oner each have about three times the lev­el of sup­port that Ander­son has. Unless Ander­son can improve her posi­tion before the end of July, she faces elim­i­na­tion in the August Top Two elec­tion. The most like­ly sce­nario for the final round at this junc­ture is a Hobbs ver­sus Wag­oner matchup, but it is pos­si­ble that the field of can­di­dates could grow larg­er because the dead­line to enter the race has not yet passed. (It’s the third Fri­day in May.)

Here’s the full text of the ques­tion we asked, and the answers again:

QUESTION: If the spe­cial elec­tion for Wash­ing­ton Sec­re­tary of State were being held today and the can­di­dates were Demo­c­rat Steve Hobbs, Repub­li­can Kei­th Wag­oner, and inde­pen­dent Julie Ander­son, who would you vote for?


  • Steve Hobbs (D): 33%
  • Kei­th Wag­oner (R): 30%
  • Julie Ander­son (I): 11%
  • Not sure: 25%

Our sur­vey of 700 like­ly 2022 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Thurs­day, Feb­ru­ary 17th through Fri­day, Feb­ru­ary 18th, 2022.

It uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines (50%) and text mes­sage answers from cell phone only respon­dents (50%).

The poll was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.7% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval.

More infor­ma­tion about the survey’s method­ol­o­gy is avail­able here.

Hobbs has stat­ed in speech­es and inter­views that cyber­se­cu­ri­ty and com­bat­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion are among his top ini­tial pri­or­i­ties as Sec­re­tary of State.

Hobbs is cur­rent­ly cham­pi­oning a bill in the Leg­is­la­ture sup­port­ed by NPI that would restrict the use of syn­thet­ic media in cam­paigns for elec­tive office. As sum­ma­rized by non­par­ti­san staff in the Sen­ate, the bill does three things:

  • Requires a dis­clo­sure when any manip­u­lat­ed audio or visu­al media of a can­di­date is used in an elec­tion­eer­ing communication.
  • Cre­ates a cause of action for can­di­dates whose voic­es or like­ness­es appear in syn­thet­ic media dis­trib­uted with­out disclosure.
  • Pro­vides excep­tions for par­o­dy and news reporting.

The bill was vot­ed out of the Sen­ate hours before the cham­ber of ori­gin cut­off arrived on Tues­day, Feb­ru­ary 15th (SB 5817). Wag­oner was among sev­er­al Repub­li­can sen­a­tors who crossed over to sup­port the bill. It’s now in the House.

While Wag­oner and Hobbs may agree on this leg­is­la­tion, Wag­oner has pre­vi­ous­ly echoed Repub­li­can attacks on elec­tion integri­ty by claim­ing that there is “mis­trust in the vot­ing sys­tem for the state and the nation.”

And, unlike Kim Wyman, who declined to pub­licly sup­port Don­ald Trump, Wag­oner is a Trump backer. Wag­oner told The Her­ald’s Jer­ry Corn­field back in Novem­ber of 2020: ”I want every legit­i­mate vote count­ed and will accept the results when they are… I would be thrilled if it would be Don­ald Trump.”

As we know, every legit­i­mate vote was count­ed and the result was a Biden/Harris vic­to­ry, both in Wash­ing­ton State and in the Elec­toral College.

Wag­oner’s enthu­si­as­tic sup­port for Trump could be a big prob­lem for his Sec­re­tary of State can­di­da­cy this sum­mer and autumn. Wash­ing­to­ni­ans may have been will­ing to entrust Kim Wyman with anoth­er four year term, but will they want a Trump backer over­see­ing the 2024 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion 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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