Inslee Selects Democratic Senator to Temporarily Replace Republican Wyman as Washington Secretary of State


OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee Wednesday announced his appointment of Sen. Steve Hobbs to temporarily serve as secretary of state in the wake of Kim Wyman's departure for the Biden administration.

Last month, Wyman — Washington's only Republican elected to a statewide position — announced she was stepping down to take a key election-security job.

First elected in 2006, Hobbs, a Democrat from Lake Stevens in Snohomish County, chairs the Senate Transportation Committee.

A longtime moderate, Hobbs has broken with the party over the years, and more recently, has clashed with the governor over Inslee's climate-change proposals. He has served for decades in the military, and is a lieutenant colonel in the Washington State National Guard.

The governor announced the appointment via video from Glasgow, Scotland, where he was attending the United Nations' climate change conference.

Hobbs will be sworn in Nov. 22.

In a statement, Inslee cited the senator's political independence, which he described as "crucial during this time of political polarization and distrust."

"He is a moderate who has worked effectively with people of all political perspectives," the governor said in prepared remarks. "He is not afraid to challenge both Democrats and Republicans. Steve has worked to protect democracy and will continue that noble pursuit as Secretary of State."

Hobbs, who is Asian-American, will be the first person of color to be secretary of state, according to Inslee's office. In a statement, he thanked Inslee and called the appointment "a tremendous honor and responsibility."

"There is nothing more sacred than the right to vote," Hobbs said in prepared remarks. "I've fought for that right overseas and will do everything in my power to protect that right here in Washington."

"Our state leads the nation in voting access and security and under my watch I will ensure that we only move to solidify our national standing in this arena," he added.

Among other responsibilities, the office is in charge of overseeing Washington's elections system. He replaces Wyman, a former county elections administrator elected to the statewide position in 2012, 2016 and 2020.

Wyman, who built deep expertise in voting security and mail balloting, has bucked Republicans elsewhere and refused to follow baseless conspiracy theories from former President Donald Trump and others about last year's election.

In a statement, Wyman praised Hobbs' selection.

"It is imperative the secretary of state — the state's chief elections official — serve as a neutral arbiter in order to inspire confidence across the political spectrum in our election processes and results," Wyman said in prepared remarks. "This approach is just as essential when overseeing the preservation of and access to our state's historical treasures, providing a streamlined registration process for Washington corporations and charities, administering various community programs, and so much more."

Hobbs will fill the secretary of state position through next November's next general election, and can run in that election.

That winner will serve through 2024, the remainder of Wyman's elected term, the governor's office has said.