This summer, Washington State voters will see a special item on their ballots, one which isn’t normally contested in midterm elections.
That item is the special election to determine who should serve out the remainder of the term that Republican Kim Wyman was elected to in 2020.
Wyman, who was first elected to the post in 2012, announced last November that she was stepping down to take a job in the Biden-Harris administration with CISA. Governor Jay Inslee subsequently appointed Democratic State Senator Steve Hobbs (D‑44th District) to take Wyman’s place, with her endorsement.
Hobbs is now running to keep the position in Democratic hands.
He faces a total of seven challengers in the looming August Top Two election, most of whom identify as Republicans, including a couple of late entrants.
As part of our seasonal statewide poll of the Washington State electorate this week, we asked respondents who they’d vote for among the eight candidates if the special election for Secretary of State were being held today.
While a majority of voters (56%) said they were unsure, which was unsurprising considering the number of choices in the question, Hobbs was the clear leader among those who did offer an opinion, with 17% saying they would vote for him. No other candidate received support beyond 6%.
When we last polled this contest in February, we gave respondents three choices to select from: Hobbs, Republican challenger Keith Wagoner (the first prominent Republican to declare his candidacy following Hobbs’ appointment), and independent Julie Anderson, the current Pierce County Auditor. We found Hobbs with a three point lead over Wagoner and Anderson further back in third place.
At the time, Wagoner looked like he might be Hobbs’ general election opponent. But his anemic fundraising and lack of visibility left us wondering how well positioned he was to actually get through the Top Two. So we opted to ask respondents about the whole field of candidates, which now includes a couple of hopefuls who entered the race only recently, like Mark Miloscia.
As mentioned, Hobbs received 17%, while everybody else was in the single digits.
Here’s question we asked and the responses we received:
QUESTION: If the Top Two election for Washington Secretary of State was being held today, which candidate would you vote for: Democrat Marquez Tiggs, Democrat Steve Hobbs, Republican Keith Wagoner, Republican Mark Miloscia, Republican Bob Hagglund, Republican Tamborine Borrelli, independent Kurtis Engle, or independent Julie Anderson?
- Not sure: 56%
- Steve Hobbs (incumbent): 17%
- Keith Wagoner: 6%
- Bob Hagglund: 5%
- Tamborine Borrelli: 5%
- Julie Anderson: 5%
- Marquez Tiggs: 3%
- Mark Miloscia: 2%
- Kurtis Engle: 1%
Our survey of 1,039 likely 2022 Washington State voters was in the field from Wednesday, June 1st through yesterday, Thursday, June 2nd, 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 +/- 3.0% at the 95% confidence interval.
Although Borrelli stated that her party preference is “America First (R)” when she filed for office for last week, we described her in our poll as a Republican because there is no such thing as the “America First (R) Party” and Borrelli has identified herself as a Republican with the Public Disclosure Commission.
Similarly, we described Kurtis Engle as an independent, because there is no organized “Union Party.” Confusingly, candidates are allowed to invent any “party” label they want when they file for office. It doesn’t have to be a real entity.
It is noteworthy that Wagoner does not have a statistically significant lead over the rest of the field. He has been in the race for six months and is a state legislator, unlike, say, Hagglund or Borrelli. Yet respondents to our survey didn’t gravitate to him. Wagoner simply isn’t standing out among the Republicans in this race, at least one of whom (Borrelli) is a conspiracy theorist whose extremely dangerous and false claims about voter fraud have been repudiated in the courts.
Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson is in a similarly bad spot.
Although she has been repeatedly elected countywide in Washington’s second largest county and is an experienced elections official running on a platform of nonpartisanship, her candidacy doesn’t seem to be resonating with voters.
Late filer Mark Miloscia, meanwhile, is in even worse shape. He received the least amount of support of the Republicans, which isn’t a good sign for him. He last ran statewide ten years ago, when he was a candidate for Washington State Auditor, finishing last among the candidates. Our research indicates that he may suffer a similar fate this summer, unless he can fire up the Trump base, Loren Culp-style.
Conspiracy theorist Borrelli is already trying to do just that.
Sources tell our team at NPI that Borrelli has been appearing at local Republican Party meetings to promote her candidacy at length to disgruntled Trump backers.
Hobbs seems positioned to get through the Top Two as the first place candidate. He has the backing of the Washington State Democratic Party, he has raised a sizable amount of money, and the only other candidate running who identifies as a Democrat, Marquez Tiggs, is unlikely to siphon off many Democratic votes.
But who will Hobbs’ general election opponent be?
At this juncture, we really can’t say.
There simply isn’t another frontrunner right now.
Two years ago, we had a similar dynamic for Governor. Incumbent Jay Inslee was the obvious frontrunner from the get-go, but for months, it wasn’t clear who would get through the Top Two as the other finalist. Eventually, former Republic police chief Loren Culp emerged as the Republican with the biggest bloc of voters behind him. His 17.41% showing in the Top Two was enough for second place.
Voting in the Top Two election is set to conclude in just two months, leaving Hobbs’ challengers with only a few weeks to get voters’ attention, make their case, and try to secure enough support to outflank their fellow challengers.
We’ll see who survives in August.