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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

In Our View: Hobbs stronger choice for secretary of state

The Columbian
Published: October 19, 2022, 6:03am

Washington voters have a difficult choice between two strong candidates for secretary of state. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends that Democrat Steve Hobbs remain in office.

As always, this is merely a recommendation. The Columbian stresses the importance of studying the candidates and the issues and the duties of the office before casting an informed ballot. In the race for secretary of state — Washington’s top elections official — voters will find that Julie Anderson also is capable of effectively filling this important role.

Hobbs, a former state senator, was appointed to the position by Gov. Jay Inslee in November 2021, after Kim Wyman left for a job in the Biden administration. This election will determine who fills the rest of Wyman’s term; the position will be on the ballot again in 2024 for a full four-year term.

During a year in office, Hobbs has proven adept at combating threats — both foreign and domestic — to Washington’s elections. “We have malign actors that are trying to bring down our democracy,” he told The Columbian’s Editorial Board. That includes cyberattacks against election software and the spreading of misinformation about the security of elections.

Incumbent Washington Secretary of State Steve Hobbs met with The Columbian's Editorial Board. Challenger Julie Anderson will met with the board separately. Video

Hobbs is expanding his office’s security operations center to defend against cyberattacks and provide support for the 39 county auditors who directly oversee elections. He also is focusing on voter outreach, not only to get more citizens involved in the process but also to better inform the electorate about security measures. For example, machines that count ballots are not connected to the internet — a fact misunderstood by much of the public.

Hobbs is trained to enhance protections. He is a lieutenant colonel in the Washington National Guard and has studied cyberattacks and information warfare at the Defense Information School and the Command and General Staff College. He also has worked with the National Security Agency while on active duty.

As a legislator, Hobbs demonstrated an ability to find bipartisan solutions to vexing problems. While he has served as a Democrat, he supports making the secretary of state position nonpartisan, recognizing that free and fair elections know no political boundaries.

Anderson — who is running as a nonpartisan candidate — also has strong credentials. She has been the Pierce County auditor for 12 years, giving her the advantage of experience in overseeing elections with a no-nonsense approach. “If you want a rule follower, vote for Julie Anderson,” she says.

Washington elections are really 39 separate elections overseen by county auditors, and Anderson has earned praise from people who understand the job and are familiar with her work. Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey is among those who have endorsed her.

While elections draw the bulk of the attention regarding the secretary of state position, both candidates talked with the editorial board about a need to reorganize the office’s other duties. Anderson noted that “business licensing is a mess,” and Hobbs has proposed establishing regional offices to help improve accessibility.

Those are important issues, but they are secondary to elections at a time when our democracy is facing threats from here and abroad.

Both Hobbs and Anderson are capable of being diligent public servants while protecting Washington elections. But Hobbs’ work during his first year in office and his experience fighting malignant actors give him a slight edge.

The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends Steve Hobbs for secretary of state.

Washington Secretary of State candidate Julie Anderson met with The Columbian's Editorial Board. Incumbent Steve Hobbs met with the board separately. Video