The more deeply one researches Kim Wyman’s ascension to the executive level of Washington state government, the more fascinating the political story becomes.We’ll start with the basics: On Nov. 6, Wyman was elected Washington’s secretary of state, drawing 50.7 percent of the votes statewide and 55.1 percent in Clark County.
Wyman is a Republican, but that really doesn’t matter because the secretary of state’s job demands neutrality in policy enforcement and nonpartisan attention to many of the state’s most important functions, not the least of which are overseeing elections and working with 39 county auditors to coordinate the overall electoral process. To involve partisan theories in carrying out this job would undermine the foundation of the office.
Then again, it is the partisan component of this story that makes it so interesting. Here are the most intriguing parts of the story, as we see it:
As The Olympian newspaper has pointed out, Wyman worked for “more than a decade as a Republican auditor in a strongly Democratic (Thurston) County. Now she takes over as a Republican secretary of state in a strongly Democratic state.”
Even more striking, deeply Democratic Washington has had Republican secretaries of state for 48 years. Wyman was preceded by Sam Reed and Ralph Munro. Even though nonpartisan reputations are crucial in this job, to have Republicans occupy the office for more than a half-century is, well, more than a little unusual.
Also according to The Olympian, Wyman is the first Republican woman elected to a statewide office in 100 years.
Wyman’s support during this year’s campaign transcended the Cascades, a rarity in Washington politics. She carried 33 of 39 counties, including 13 counties in the western half of the state.
Wyman was endorsed by all eight of the state’s largest newspapers. Then again, that’s not always a good thing. Ask Rob McKenna. He was endorsed by 11 of the state’s 12 biggest newspapers but lost the governor’s race to Jay Inslee. Still, for a Republican to stretch out a string of endorsements like that is rare in a mostly blue state.
In addition to the plot-thickening factors related to party affiliation, there’s some kind of weird thing going on between the secretary of state’s job and the auditor’s job in Thurston County. Twice now, voters statewide have chosen a secretary of state who needs only to move less than a mile east, across Capitol Lake, from a county office to the state government’s Legislative Building.
When Wyman is sworn in in January, she will have big shoes to fill. Reed’s record has been exemplary through three terms. The Olympian provided this to-do list for Wyman: “… move the Heritage Center (project) forward, smooth out the filing process for corporations, continue Munro’s and Reed’s work to connect people to history through the state archives library, and give small companies representation with potential international trading partners.”
That newspaper — and The Columbian — also recommend that Wyman strengthen the advocacy for changing Washington’s ballot-receiving deadline from postmarked by election day to received by election offices no later than election day.
In the meantime, we expect Wyman to continue figuratively writing chapters in one of the most interesting political stories in Washington state history.