Democrats Seek to Win Washington Secretary of State Race for the First Time in More Than 60 Years


Do you remember Victor Aloysius Meyers?

A Depression-era jazz-band leader, Meyers was goaded into running for Seattle mayor as a stunt, lost, but ultimately had a decadeslong career in Washington politics.

He also holds the distinction of being the last Democrat elected as Washington secretary of state.

In a state that hasn't had a Republican governor in nearly four decades, that hasn't had a Republican senator in more than two decades and currently has zero Republicans in statewide office, voters have consistently chosen Republicans to supervise and certify elections, register businesses and nonprofits and preserve the historical records of the state.

For nearly 60 years, ever since Meyers was defeated in his quest for a third term in 1964, Washington voters have chosen 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 appointed last year by Gov. Jay Inslee to fill the vacancy left when Republican Kim Wyman left the post to take an election security position in the Biden administration.

Hobbs, who says his top priority is ensuring elections are secure, particularly from cyberthreats, now faces a field of seven challengers as he seeks election to the final two years of what had been Wyman's four-year term.

The challengers include: Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, the only experienced elections administrator, who says election oversight should be a strictly nonpartisan affair. Former Republican state Sen. Mark Miloscia, who has doubts about the results of the 2020 election and wants to restore voter confidence. Tamborine Borrelli, running as an America First Republican, whose "election integrity" group has been sanctioned for making legally meritless claims alleging widespread fraud. State Sen. Keith Wagoner, a Republican who says voters chose a Republican and the seat should be returned to Republicans. Bob Hagglund, a Snohomish County Republican, who says he'd bring private-sector experience to the office.

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

As fears of cyberthreats to election infrastructure have increased and as Republicans nationwide have falsely attacked the results of the 2020 elections, the roles of election administrators have taken on a higher profile and importance.

Democrats, in recent years, failed to knock off Wyman, despite running well-credentialed, well-funded candidates. Are the new, tenuous political environment and the powers of incumbency enough to finally knock Victor Aloysius Meyers down a step on history's ladder?

The top two candidates, regardless of party, will advance to the November general election, with the winner serving through 2024.


Steve Hobbs

Hobbs, a moderate Democrat and longtime state senator who frequently voted against high-profile party priorities, was chosen by Inslee to be secretary of state last November.

He is the first secretary of state in more than two decades to take office without experience as an elections administrator.

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

He says that Wyman did a great job in office, and that "I don't think it matters what party, but it does matter what type of person you get in there."

A lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard, he cites his military experience as more vital than experience running elections.

"It's about securing our elections," Hobbs said. "County auditors are the ones that run the elections. I don't run the elections. I do oversight, I certify and we do training and we do reviews."


Julie Anderson

Anderson has been the elected Pierce County auditor for nearly 13 years, after serving five years on the Tacoma City Council. She has always run without partisan affiliation and is doing so again, making it a key part of her campaign.

"The role is ministerial," Anderson said. "We don't create law and in today's hyperpolarized environment, highly charged politics, now more than ever we don't need a partisan secretary."

Job 1, she said, would be to run a larger audit, one that samples a statistically valid number of ballots, in one statewide race, from each of Washington's 39 counties. It would "enhance or complement" the audits that are already done at the county level. She wants to create a nonpartisan corps of observers to oversee elections and ballot counting, rather than just observers from each party as is currently the case.

"Experience does matter," Anderson said. "I've lived through three presidential cycles, managed hundreds of elections, over a dozen recounts, citizen initiatives, you name it, and I thrive in the environment. I love the work."

Mark Miloscia

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

He says he is running to restore voters' trust in elections. He says he doesn't know if there was enough fraud in 2020 to overturn the election results and wishes it were investigated better.

Miloscia wants to end same-day voter registration in Washington and require a photo ID for voting.

"What I intend to do as secretary of state is bring Democrats, Republicans together on the issue of integrity and restoring trust to government," Miloscia said. "We need to have a secure system where people feel like when they vote, their voting counts, and that the voting system will give the results, the true results of the election."


Tamborine 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 number of lawsuits related to the 2020 election, claiming "electronic manipulation" and "statewide vote flipping," part of the "Stop the Steal" movement stoked by former President Donald Trump's false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Those claims have been rejected in dozens of lawsuits and audits across the country and in Washington.

In the spring, the state Supreme Court took the unusual step of sanctioning and fining Borrelli's group more than $28,000 after deeming their claims legally meritless.

"The Coalition's filings improperly used the court system to peddle baseless allegations to undermine confidence in Washington's elections," Attorney General Bob Ferguson wrote of Borrelli's group.

Borrelli did not respond to multiple interview requests.


Keith Wagoner

Wagoner, a Skagit County Republican, has been a state senator since 2018 after serving as a City Council member and mayor of Sedro-Woolley.

Wagoner cites his party's long hold on the secretary of state's office and last year's switch as his reason for running.

"The wishes of the voters, and that's across the political spectrum, have been to put a Republican in that office for the past five and a half decades," Wagoner said.

"They appreciate the balance and accountability of having someone from the minority party in that office."

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

He proposed legislation this year that would have gotten the Washington State Patrol involved in election oversight, requiring them to do signature verification on a sampling of ballots, a task currently done by county election officials.


Bob Hagglund

Hagglund, who works in health insurance after a long business career, pitches himself as the private-sector candidate. Government offices, he said, should not be used as steppingstones, with lower office leading to higher office.

"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 implement a voter ID requirement and "would like to see us go more to in-person voting with mail-in the exception."

He does have doubts about the 2020 elections, but is concerned that elections aren't being run with enough openness and transparency.

While some counties, including King County, broadcast a livestream of their ballot counting room, Hagglund thinks more cameras would be helpful.

"Take it as far as is reasonably necessary to allay the public concerns," he said. "As I said, I don't share a lot of those concerns, but I do understand people's worries."