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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, October 21st, 2022

Brad Klippert’s write-in candidacy could give Steve Hobbs the edge over Julie Anderson for Secretary of State, NPI poll suggests

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.

Secretary of State poll finding (October 2022)

Visu­al­iza­tion of NPI’s poll find­ing for Wash­ing­ton Sec­re­tary of State, Octo­ber 2022

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?

ANSWERS:

  • 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%).

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

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 HobbsJulie Ander­sonBrad Klip­pert
Democ­rats65% -> 66%13% -> 14%1%
Repub­li­cans3% -> 2%61% -> 22%57%
Inde­pen­dents25% -> 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.

At NPI, we spe­cial­ize in ask­ing ques­tions that no one else is. If you appre­ci­ate our insight­ful research and imag­i­na­tive advo­ca­cy, we invite you to join us as a mem­ber. You can also make a one time dona­tion to sus­tain our polling.

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