Can Democrats win the race for WA Secretary of State for the first time in more than 60 years?

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Do you remember Victor Aloysius Meyers?

Meyers, a Depression-era jazz band leader, was pushed to run for mayor of Seattle as a stunt, but ultimately lost a decades-long career in Washington politics.

He is also the last Democrat to be elected Washington Secretary of State.

In a state that hasn’t had a Republican governor in nearly four decades, hasn’t had a Republican senator in more than two decades, and currently has zero Republicans in office statewide, voters have consistently chosen Republicans to oversee elections, confirm and themselves to register businesses and non-profit organizations and preserves the historical records of the state.

For nearly 60 years, since Meyers was defeated in his bid for a third term in 1964, voters in Washington have elected a Republican secretary of state every four years.

But Washington’s current Secretary of State is a Democrat.

Secretary of State Steve Hobbs was not elected but was appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee last year to fill the vacancy left over after Republican Kim Wyman left the post to take an election security position in the Biden administration.

Hobbs, who says his top priority is making the elections safe, especially from cyber threats, now faces a field of seven challengers as he runs for election in the final two years of Wyman’s four-year term.

Challengers include: Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, the only experienced election administrator, who says election oversight should be a strictly impartial affair. Former Republican Senator Mark Miloscia, who has doubts about the results of the 2020 election and wants to restore voter confidence. Tamborine Borrelli, who is running as an America First Republican, whose “election integrity” group has been sanctioned for making unlawful allegations of widespread fraud. State Senator Keith Wagoner, a Republican, who says voters elected a Republican and the seat should be returned to Republicans. Bob Hagglund, a Snohomish County Republican, who says he would bring his private sector experience to the office.

Democrat Marquez Tiggs and Union Party candidate Kurtis Engle are also on the ballot, but neither reported raising money.

As fears of cyber threats to election infrastructure have increased and Republicans across the country have falsely attacked the 2020 election results, the roles of election administrators have risen in profile and importance.

Democrats have failed to eliminate Wyman in recent years, despite fielding well-qualified and well-funded candidates. Will the new, weak political environment and the power of the incumbent be enough to finally push Victor Aloysius Meyers one step down the history ladder?

The top two candidates, regardless of party, will advance to November’s general election, with the winner remaining in office until 2024.

brief info

Steve Hobbs (D): 52, Washington Secretary of State, Lt. Col. Washington Army National Guard, raised $392,974

Julie Anderson (bipartisan): 57, Pierce County CPA, raised $159,745

Markus Miloscia (r): 63, former state senator, former director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, raised $57,955

Tamborin Borrelli (America First R): 51, nonprofit director, raised $47,772

Keith Wagoner (R): 61, State Senator, retired Naval Commander, raised $37,648

Bob Hagglund (R): 56, health insurance consultant, $10,745 raised

Steve Hobbs

Hobbs, a moderate Democrat and longtime senator who has frequently voted against high-profile party priorities, was elected Secretary of State by Inslee last November.

He is the first foreign minister in more than two decades to take office without experience as an election officer.

Hobbs says his top three priorities are protecting elections through cybersecurity improvements, pushing back on misinformation and disinformation, and increasing voter outreach and education.

He says Wyman has done a great job in office and that “I think it doesn’t matter which party, but it does matter what kind of person you get there.”

A lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard, he cites his military experience as more important than his experience as an election officer.

“It’s about securing our elections,” Hobbs said. “The district auditors are the ones who conduct the elections. I don’t run the elections. I oversee, I certify and we conduct training and we conduct reviews.”

Julie Anderson

Anderson has been Pierce County’s Comptroller-Elect for nearly 13 years, having served on the Tacoma City Council for five years. She has always run without party affiliation and is doing so again, making her a key element of her campaign.

“The role is ministerial,” Anderson said. “We do not create justice and in today’s hyperpolarized environment, highly charged politics, we do not need a partisan secretary more than ever.”

Job 1, she said, would consist of conducting a larger audit, scanning a statistically valid number of ballots in a statewide race from each of Washington’s 39 counties. It would “improve or supplement” the audits already being conducted at the county level. It wants to create a bipartisan observer corps to oversee the elections and vote counting, rather than just observers from each party, as is currently the case.

“Experience matters,” Anderson said. “I’ve lived through three presidential cycles, ran hundreds of elections, over a dozen recounts, civic groups, whatever, and I thrive in the environment. I love the work.”

Markus Miloscia

Miloscia, a Democrat-turned-Republican, served as a state representative for 14 years and a state senator for four years until he was defeated in 2018. In recent years he has directed the Family Policy Institute of Washington and promoted Christian public policy. In this role he has written that Democrats serve Satan and support human sacrifice and has compared them to Hitler, Stalin and Mao.

He says he’s running to restore voter confidence in the election. He says he doesn’t know if there was enough fraud in 2020 to overturn the election results and wishes it was better investigated.

Miloscia wants to end voter registration on the same day in Washington and require photo ID to vote.

“As Secretary of State, I intend to bring Democrats and Republicans together on the issue of integrity and restoring trust in government,” Miloscia said. “We need a secure system where people feel when they vote, their vote counts and the voting system delivers the results, the true results of the election.”

Tamborin Borrelli

Borrelli has led the nonprofit Washington Election Integrity Coalition United since November 2020.

She wants to scrap Washington’s mail-in voting system and replace it with in-person voting and a voter ID requirement.

Her group has filed a series of lawsuits related to the 2020 election, alleging “electronic tampering” and “nationwide vote-flipping” were part of the “stop the steal” movement fueled by former President Donald Trump’s false claims fomented that the 2020 elections were stolen from him. These claims have been dismissed in dozens of court cases and trials across the country and in Washington.

In the spring, the state Supreme Court took the unusual step of sanctioning and penalizing Borrelli’s group with a fine of more than $28,000 after finding their claims to be legally baseless.

“The coalition files improperly used the court system to peddle baseless allegations designed to undermine confidence in Washington’s election,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson wrote of Borrelli’s group.

Borrelli did not respond to several interview requests.

Keith Wagoner

Waggoner, a Republican from Skagit County, has been a state senator since 2018 after serving as a city councilman and mayor of Sedro-Woolley.

Waggoner cites his party’s long influence on the post of foreign minister and last year’s change as the reason for his candidacy.

“The desire of voters, across the political spectrum, has been for a Republican for the last five and a half decades,” Waggoner said. “They appreciate the balance and accountability of having someone from the minority party in this office.”

He wants the office to do a better job of helping counties clean up voter rolls. While he worries about voter fraud, he says there is no evidence there was enough fraud in 2020 to turn around an election.

He proposed legislation this year that would have involved the Washington State Patrol in election oversight and required them to conduct signature verification on a sample of ballots, a task currently performed by county election officials.

Bob Hagglund

Hagglund, who works in health insurance after a long business career, introduces himself as a private sector candidate. Government posts, he said, should not be used as stepping stones, as lower posts lead to higher posts.

“We need people who treat public service like jury duty,” he said. “You go, you take responsibility, you serve, you go home. It shouldn’t be a lifestyle.”

He wants to introduce a voter ID requirement and “would like to see us move more towards in-person voting with mail-in exception.”

He has doubts about the 2020 election but is concerned that the elections will not be conducted with enough openness and transparency.

While some counties, including King County, are livestreaming their ballot counting room, Hagglund thinks more cameras would be helpful.

“Go as far as is reasonably necessary to allay public concerns,” he said. “As I said, I don’t share many of these concerns, but I understand people’s concerns.”

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