Washington’s Democratic U.S. Senator Patty Murray continues to enjoy a double digit lead over Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley, while Secretary of State hopefuls Steve Hobbs and Julie Anderson are tied at 38% apiece with less than a month until the midterms, a new poll from Strategies 360 and KOMO has found.
52% of likely voters said they would vote for Murray if the election were being held today, while 40% said Smiley. 8% were not sure. Murray’s lead over Smiley was slightly larger among just registered voters (50% to 36%).
Emerson College had Senator Murray with a slightly smaller nine point lead, but even that gap was well beyond the two point margin that Republican firm Trafalgar claimed existed in Washington State towards the end of September.
Meanwhile, the Secretary of State’s race is a dead heat.
38% of likely voters said they were backing Democratic incumbent Steve Hobbs, while 38% said they were supporting independent Julie Anderson. 23% were not sure. The candidates are also tied among registered voters: 35% expressed a preference for Hobbs, 36% for Anderson, and 29% were not sure.
Hobbs, appointed by Inslee last autumn to take over for Republican Kim Wyman, is facing a spirited challenge from Anderson, the Pierce County Auditor, who isn’t affiliated with a political party. Anderson was able to beat out several Republicans for the opportunity to take on Hobbs in the general election due to Republican vote-splitting (too many rival Republican candidates cancelling each other out).
In her challenge to Hobbs, Anderson is backed by many Pierce County Democratic political figures, former Secretary of State Sam Reed and the Mainstream Republicans, along with many of her fellow auditors, though several of the state’s best known auditors (like Mary Hall and Paddy McGuire) have endorsed Hobbs.
Hobbs is also endorsed by The Seattle Times, The Herald of Everett, The Stranger, The Association of Washington Business, the Washington State Labor Council, and Republicans like Senator Curtis King of Yakima, who do not usually endorse or campaign for Democratic candidates in statewide races.
It’s fair to say that Washington voters have never seen a Secretary of State contest like this. The position is ordinarily elected in presidential years, but because of Wyman’s resignation, there’s a special election for it this year.
And for the first time in decades, there isn’t a Republican listed on the ballot for the office, even though Republicans continuously held the office for over half a century prior to Hobbs’ appointment. (Republicans’ winning streak for Secretary of State was even longer than Democrats’ winning streak for governor!)
As a new appointed statewide executive official, Hobbs doesn’t have the name recognition that Jay Inslee, Patty Murray, Bob Ferguson, or other Democrats have, and he doesn’t have the benefit of running in a presidential year.
To fend off Anderson, Hobbs must build a strong campaign in the state’s swing counties, like Pierce, where Anderson is from.
Hobbs has historically represented part of a swing county himself — Snohomish — which helps, but Hobbs still has to connect with voters across a large state and make the case that voters should elect a Democrat to an office that has been held by Republicans for most of the lifetimes of Washington voters.
Anderson, for her part, is trying to pull off a historically difficult task: win a statewide office without the backing of either major political party. As mentioned, Anderson has individual Democratic and Republican supporters, but the Democratic Party is firmly committed to Hobbs, while the Republican Party is backing State Representative Brad Klippert’s write-in candidacy.
Having failed to oust Dan Newhouse for Congress, Klippert is now trying to carry the Republican standard in the Secretary of State contest despite being off the ballot. His chances of winning are pretty much nil, but his presence in the race might affect the outcome, especially if it siphons votes from Anderson.
As we saw in 2020 in the Lieutenant Governor’s race, many Republican voters don’t want to vote for someone who isn’t a Republican. There were a jaw-dropping 759,076 write-in votes for Lieutenant Governor in 2020… equivalent to 20.88% of the total votes cast for the office. In fact, there were so many votes cast for a write-in that the winner, Democrat Denny Heck, was elected with only plurality support. He got 45.61% and fellow Democrat Marko Liias got 33.51%.
Hobbs heads into the final weeks with a financial advantage. He has raised $639,934.12 in contributions and spent $387,566.96, with $252,367.16 remaining as of his most recent report. Anderson has raised $272,696.36 and spent $190,308.39, leaving $82,387.97 as of her most recent report.
Ballots will be mailed next week and are due back by 8 PM on November 8th.