An ultra MAGA Republican’s write-in candidacy could play a pivotal role in keeping the office of Washington’s Secretary of State in Democratic hands this year, a poll conducted this week for the Northwest Progressive Institute indicates.
Recent polling has shown appointed Democratic incumbent Steve Hobbs tied with independent challenger Julie Anderson, and our October 2022 survey of the Washington State electorate confirms that dynamic still exists.
Hobbs, a former state senator, was appointed to the post almost a year ago by Governor Jay Inslee following the resignation of Republican Kim Wyman, who took a job with CISA in the Biden administration. Hobbs is the first Democratic Secretary of State in over fifty years and the first Asian American to hold the office. He is being challenged by Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson. Six other candidates were eliminated in the Top Two election, including several Republicans.
Given a choice between just Hobbs and Anderson, 34% of our respondents said they’d vote for Anderson, 33% said Hobbs, and 32% were not sure.
However, once we added Republican Brad Klippert’s name to the mix, we saw a big shift. 34% of our respondents picked Hobbs in our follow-up question, 23% chose Klippert, and just 18% backed Anderson. 25% were not sure.
These numbers suggest that Klippert’s candidacy could be the deciding factor in this unusual race. Though Klippert isn’t listed on the ballot, he is a declared candidate who is actively campaigning, as this excellent Crosscut article written by Joseph O’Sullivan published yesterday explains, and Washingtonians have the freedom to write in his name if they wish when they vote for this office.
Once respondents have the option of picking Klippert, a proud and declared Republican, Anderson’s support collapses. Meanwhile, Hobbs holds steady, with an ever so slight increase in support of one percentage point (33% > 34%).
Hobbs’ base of support looks rather solid, while Anderson’s coalition looks awfully shaky. To win this contest, Anderson needs Republican and independent voters behind her, since Washington is a Democratic leaning state and most Democratic voters are backing Hobbs along with many independents.
“Every poll that we’ve seen demonstrates that I have a path to victory,” Anderson told The Center Square in an interview published yesterday. Head-to-head polls, sure, but our survey is the first that takes the Klippert factor into account.
If even a small percentage of Republican voters choose Klippert over Anderson, her path to victory could vanish, putting the kibosh on Anderson’s chances.
Here is the text of both questions that we asked and the responses we received:
QUESTION: The candidates for Washington Secretary of State are Democrat Steve Hobbs and independent Julie Anderson. Who do you plan to vote for in the election?
- Steve Hobbs (D): 33%
- Julie Anderson (I): 34%
- Not sure: 32%
QUESTION: In addition to Democrat Steve Hobbs and independent Julie Anderson, the candidates for Washington Secretary of State also include a write-in candidate who will not be listed on the ballot: Republican Brad Klippert. Who do you plan to vote for in the election?
- Steve Hobbs (D): 34%
- Brad Klippert (R, write-in): 23%
- Julie Anderson (I): 18%
- Not sure: 25%
Our survey of 782 likely 2022 Washington State midterm voters was in the field from Wednesday, October 19th through Thursday, October 20th. The survey was conducted by Public Policy Polling for the Northwest Progressive Institute and has a margin of error of +/- 3.5% at the 95% confidence interval.
It utilizes a blended methodology, with automated phone calls to landlines (50%) and text message answers from cell phone only respondents (50%).
Anyone who thinks that a write-in candidate securing a double digit percentage of the vote is implausible should consider that in 2020, a whopping 759,076 Washington voters (20% of the total voting for the office) voted for a write-in candidate for Lieutenant Governor, which like Secretary of State is a downballot executive office. Most of those voters were Republicans dissatisfied with the notion of having to choose between two Democrats (Denny Heck, Marko Liias).
Julie Anderson is running as a “nonpartisan,” unaffiliated with any political party, so the dynamics aren’t exactly the same as in that Lieutenant Governor’s race.
But if Republican voters know that a Republican candidate is running whose name they can affix to their ballot, our data demonstrates that they will gravitate to the Republican, as we saw in 2020. Large numbers of Republican voters would clearly rather vote for a Republican candidate than a candidate who is not a Republican.
Interestingly, that’s also true of a significant portion of independent voters.
Below, we can see what happens to Anderson’s coalition once respondents are aware of Klippert’s candidacy and have the option of picking him:
Crosstabs by party for both questions
Steve Hobbs Julie Anderson Brad Klippert Democrats 65% -> 66% 13% -> 14% 1% Republicans 3% -> 2% 61% -> 22% 57% Independents 25% -> 27% 35% -> 20% 17%
Hobbs keeps his support among the Democratic and independent voters already in his camp once Klippert is in the picture. But Anderson loses most of her Republican support as well as a chunk of those self-identified independents.
The number of not sure voters also decreases once Klippert is in the picture. Initially, 32% of all respondents are not sure: 21% Democrats, 36% Republicans, and 40% of independents. But after Klippert becomes an option, 25% say they are not sure: 19% Democrats, 18% Republicans, and 36% of independents.
This finding mirrors, to some extent, the three-way split we saw in February when our wintertime statewide poll fielded. In that poll, we had a question about the Secretary of State contest with three choices: Hobbs, Anderson, and Republican State Senator Keith Wagoner, who at that point hadn’t been eliminated. Hobbs led with 33%, Wagoner was second with 30%, and Anderson was third with 11%.
Wagoner’s anemic fundraising subsequently left his campaign in a vulnerable position. Because he didn’t have the resources to go up on TV back in July, he couldn’t unite Republican voters behind his candidacy and claim a general election ballot slot. Wagoner instead split the Republican vote with rivals Bob Hagglund and Mark Miloscia, allowing Anderson to go on. Had the Republican vote been unified, Anderson almost certainly would have been eliminated in the Top Two.
Other statewide polls that recently looked at this contest asked only about Hobbs versus Anderson. Like us, they found an almost dead even two-way race.
But this is really a three-way race if Republican voters know about Brad Klippert’s candidacy. And our guess is that many will, given that Klippert has the backing of the Washington State Republican Party, a campaign apparatus, and access to right wing media outlets. That’s why we asked a follow-question which included Klippert. His candidacy cannot be dismissed just because his name wont’t appear on the ballot. He is clearly an attractive option in the eyes of the ultra MAGA faction of the electorate, and they’ve shown they’re willing to write in a name.
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