Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, left, debates Secretary of State Steve Hobbs on Aug. 17 with moderator Melissa Santos of Axios Local in the center. (Photo by Brian Mittge/Association of Washington Business)

Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, left, debates Secretary of State Steve Hobbs on Aug. 17 with moderator Melissa Santos of Axios Local in the center. (Photo by Brian Mittge/Association of Washington Business)

Secretary of state debate: Sparks fly as Hobbs and Anderson face off

Julie Anderson called Steve Hobbs an “inexperienced political appointee.” He’s been in the job since Inslee put him there in November.

  • By Jerry Cornfield jcornfield@soundpublishing.com
  • Thursday, August 18, 2022 4:08pm
  • NewsNorthwest

OLYMPIA — Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson went on the offensive in a debate with Secretary of State Steve Hobbs on Aug. 17, calling him “an inexperienced political appointee” and insinuating his Democratic Party ties make him susceptible to partisan influence in the office.

Anderson contended Hobbs, who has been in the post since November, is unable to effectively counter claims of fraud or bolster voter confidence because of a lack of understanding of what’s fully involved in conducting elections.

And Anderson, who is running as a nonpartisan candidate, said she’s doing so because it gives voters confidence she will be free from partisan influence in the office that oversees elections.

“We have to shield the office of Secretary of State from partisanship that is eroding trust in our elections and that begins here with this election,” she said in the hour-long debate hosted by the Association of Washington Business.

Hobbs, a Democrat from Lake Stevens, countered that party labels don’t matter. What matters is “what person you have in the office,” he said.

As to experience, he said he said he has been in the post a year and seen the duties entail managing elections amid attempted hacks, cyber break-ins and misinformation campaigns. He said his military service — he’s a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard — provides him experience to tackle those issues that Anderson lacks.

“The office of Secretary of State has evolved beyond that of simply overseeing elections and supporting our 39 counties to one where we’re protecting our democracy from cyberthreats and misinformation campaigns,” he said.

Hobbs repeatedly noted that as the first person of color in the office. His mother is Japanese. He understands “all too well” how minority communities may feel unrepresented.


Hobbs, 52, of Lake Stevens, was in his fourth term in the state Senate when he was appointed to the post by Democrat Gov. Jay Inslee after Kim Wyman, a Republican, left to work in the Biden administration. She was the fifth consecutive Republican to hold the office in Washington dating back to 1965.

Anderson, 57, was first elected to the nonpartisan county auditor post in 2009. She won her first full term in 2010 and been re-elected twice with opposition. She’s also a former Tacoma City Council member.

Whoever wins this year’s election will serve the remaining two years of Wyman’s term. They will be Washington’s chief elections officer and oversee several other entities including the state archives and the state library. The job pays $136,996 a year.

In the Aug. 2 primary, Hobbs faced seven opponents and captured about 40% of the vote. Anderson garnered just under 13% for the second spot, beating out four Republicans and shutting the GOP out of the November race.

In the debate, they agreed on a few things. Both are open to moving the primary to an earlier date. Additional audits of batches of ballots should be done in every county as they already are in Pierce and Snohomish. More effort must be made to combat election misinformation, they said.

But they had starkly different views on the value of ranked choice voting, in which voters choose candidates in the order they prefer — first choice, second choice, and so on. If no one gets a majority of first-choice votes, subsequent rankings are considered until a majority is reached.

Hobbs said his office will help any county where it is deployed, though he’s not endeared with offering the option statewide. Getting people to vote is hard enough. This system is not easy to understand and could turn-off voters who already find participating a challenge.

“I am not against this idea,” he said. “What I am against is rushing forward and not thinking about those Washingtonians who are going to be disenfranchised.”


Anderson said it’s in use in a lot of places and “the sky hasn’t fallen.”

“Ranked choice voting is coming to Washington state, and I don’t know in which local jurisdiction it’s going to land first, but what I do know is we’re going to need a secretary of state who isn’t going to stick their head in the sand and is going to get ahead of this,” she said.

Afterwards, Anderson said going on the attack didn’t come easy.

“To accentuate differences and to minimize somebody is not natural,” she said. “There is a contrast and it’s up to me to show that contrast. I have a responsibility to the voters and to the 39 county auditors to do this.”

Hobbs said he expected it.

“She has to attack. That’s her strategy,” he said. “She’s an elected office-holder. She’s just as much a politician as I am.”

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kentreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

Kent Municipal Court. COURTESY PHOTO, City of Kent
Kent man accused in Meridian Elementary incident to get new evaluation

Kent Municipal Court judge grants defense attorney’s request; next hearing Dec. 22

Kent, Auburn animal shelters offer reduced adoption fees

Prices for dogs, cats drop during holiday special at each facility

Stock Photo, Metro Creative Graphics
Kent to receive first opioid settlement payment from drug companies

‘No amount of settlement funds will ever rectify all of the problems created by these corporations,’ city attorney says

U.S. Attorney’s Office reaches settlement with Kent-based Tri-Med

New systems will assist patients who are deaf or hard of hearing; resident’s complaint led to agreement

Meridian Elementary School, 25621 140th Ave. SE, on the East Hill in Kent. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent School District
Kent man charged in Meridian Elementary incident faces hearing | Update

Transferred to Kent city jail Dec. 7 from King County custody

One person’s month recovery coins after battling a fentanyl addiction. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
How to manage the holiday season with alcoholism and addiction

“It’s part of our culture to have an alcoholic drink around the holidays,” said Dr. Richard Geary III.

Kent man, 80, dies in three-vehicle crash along Central Avenue South

Collision Friday evening, Dec. 2 as driver turned out of a private driveway

Developer plans five-story apartment complex in Kent on Novak Lane

Approximately 195 units and commercial space with planned opening in 2024

Most Read