Washington State House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox had some ideas Wednesday for who Gov. Jay Inslee could appoint to fill the secretary of state vacancy, and they’re both Republicans.
The vacancy was created by Kim Wyman’s surprise announcement on Tuesday that she will be stepping down as secretary of state to join President Joe Biden’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
“This vacancy will be filled by the Governor and it is an excellent opportunity for him to start healing the state by recognizing that those with a perspective different from his have the right to representation in our state,” Wilcox told The Center Square. “Selecting a competent and well known Republican such as Hans Zeiger or Charles Ross will send an inclusive message that softens the impression that he has created with his current partisan approach.”
Zeiger is a former state senator and a current member of the Pierce County Council from Puyallup. Ross is a former representative in the state House from Naches. Both have served in the military in some capacity.
Wilcox, who lives in Yelm and serves the 2nd legislative district, predicted that whatever Inslee decides, “the special election in ’22 will be a unique opportunity for Republicans to hold this important position due to the coming Republican wave election.”
His words followed a marker thrown down by GOP state chair Caleb Heimlich after Wyman announced her resignation.
“I believe the governor should honor the wishes of the voters and select a Republican,” Heimlich said on FOX 13 News. “I doubt he’s going to do that, but I wish he would, because I think that would show a strong message that he cares about the integrity of our elections. And so far, the voters have trusted Republicans to preserve those elections.”
The GOP chair pointed to Washingtonians’ long history of electing Republicans as secretary of state. The last time a Democrat held the office was in 1964. Wyman, who will stay on until Nov. 19, is currently the only Republican statewide elected official.
Luanne Van Werven is a former state representative from Whatcom County and former acting chair of the state Republican Party.
“Kim Wyman’s resignation is a real loss to our state and I am deeply disappointed that she left the future of the office of Secretary of State to the whims of Jay Inslee,” Van Werven said.
Van Werven also echoed calls for the governor to appoint a Republican.
“When there is a vacancy for partisan elected positions it is customary and expected that the position be replaced by someone of the same political party,” she said. “There is no question the vacant secretary of state position should be filled by a Republican. For the Governor to do otherwise would be a nakedly partisan move.”
The governor’s office left open the possibility of appointing a Republican as secretary of state on Wednesday.
“An appointee could be a Republican, or a Democrat, or a third party, or an independent. Party affiliation is not a requirement for the appointment,” said Inslee Deputy Communications Director Mike Faulk.