State Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens.

State Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens.

Sen. Steve Hobbs of Lake Stevens named secretary of state

Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday appointed the Snohomish County Democrat to succeed departing Republican Kim Wyman.

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday chose state Sen. Steve Hobbs — a moderate Lake Stevens Democrat with whom he’s feuded on climate change and transportation policies — as secretary of state.

Hobbs succeeds Kim Wyman, a Republican who is resigning for a job in the Biden administration.

Wyman leaves office Nov. 22 to work as the election security lead for the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

“This is a tremendous honor and responsibility,” Hobbs, a lieutenant colonel in the Washington National Guard, said in a statement. “There is nothing more sacred than the right to vote. I’ve fought for that right overseas and will do everything in my power to protect that right here in Washington.”

Speaking with reporters a short time later, he said he was “deeply humbled by being asked to go into this office” and praised Wyman for leaving him a strong staff and foundation.

“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” he said when asked about potential changes at the office of the secretary of state in Olympia.

The appointment lasts until the certification of next year’s general election results. The office of secretary of state will be on that ballot, and the winner will complete the final two years of Wyman’s term. Hobbs said he will run for the seat.

Hobbs, a state senator since 2007, is Asian American and will be the first person of color to serve as Washington’s secretary of state.

Hobbs was first elected to the state Senate in 2006 and has been re-elected three times in the 44th Legislative District, which includes Lake Stevens, Mill Creek and Snohomish. His current term expires next year. He has also run unsuccessfully for the Snohomish County Council and the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2020, Hobbs briefly campaigned for lieutenant governor.

He has carved out a reputation as a middle-of-the-road member of his party. In 2006, when he unseated Dave Schmidt, a Republican, the statewide teacher’s union and environmental organizations backed the GOP incumbent. Four years later, progressive groups and some statewide unions opposed Hobbs again.

“I made enemies because I stood up to a couple groups and said, ‘No.’ They want to put in people who will say, ‘Yes,’” Hobbs said at the time.

In his first term, Hobbs helped unite centrist Democrats in the House and Senate into the Roadkill Caucus to give moderates a measure of political leverage in the legislating process.

On Wednesday, Inslee highlighted Hobbs’ political independence and military service as exemplary traits.

“Steve is a dedicated public servant,” Inslee said in a statement. “He has a strong national security perspective from his work in the Army and National Guard. His experience in cyber-security will be crucial as election systems around the country continue to face threats.”

“Importantly, Steve has demonstrated political independence. That is crucial during this time of political polarization and distrust,” Inslee said. “He is a moderate who has worked effectively with people of all political perspectives. 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.”

Inslee announced the appointment by video from Scotland, where he is attending the United Nations summit on climate change. By doing so, he avoided a potentially awkward news conference at which he and Hobbs could have faced questions about the number of times the two were at loggerheads during the governor’s two-plus terms.

Most notably, Hobbs, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, blocked through several sessions adoption of a low carbon fuel standard sought by Inslee.

When a bill finally passed this year, implementation was tied to passage of a new multi-year transportation package, a deal Hobbs helped negotiate. But Inslee vetoed the linkage, angering many lawmakers, including Hobbs.

Hobbs will be the first Democratic secretary of state since Vic Meyers, who served from 1956 to 1964.

Wyman won re-election to a third term in November. She is the only Republican holding an elected statewide office on the West Coast. State Republican Party leaders wanted Inslee to appoint someone from the GOP as her replacement.

“This is a crass political move by Governor Inslee to help pass his radical liberal agenda by removing an obstacle from the state Senate,” said Washington State Republican Party Chairman Caleb Heimlich in a statement Wednesday.

Hobbs brushed aside the assertion, insisting his ability to navigate among Republicans and Democrats demonstrates he will be able to represent the needs of all residents. It would be “horrible,” he said, had the governor chosen someone from the far left or far right.

House Republican leader J.T. Wilcox of Yelm said in a statement: “From a legislative standpoint, Senator Hobbs provided needed political balance in the state Senate. Governor Inslee has ended that balance and removed one of the most effective roadblocks in the state Senate to his controversial policies. That may be good for the governor, but it is bad for our state.”

Wyman praised Hobbs’s selection.

“Senator Hobbs is a proven leader and dedicated public servant. As a lieutenant colonel in the Washington Army National Guard, I am confident Steve will bring that same commitment to service and integrity to the Office of the Secretary of State,” she said in a statement.

Hobbs arrives with no experience in elections. But he cited skills gained from his bipartisan work as a lawmaker and his experience managing large groups. He oversaw the National Guard’s 750-person task force which, early in pandemic, supported the operation of food banks and distribution of food.

He said he will reach out to auditors of Washington’s 39 counties to learn their concerns. One goal, he said, is to strengthen the ability of the office to counter the spread of electoral disinformation as it happens, especially near Election Day.

“Senator Hobbs has an impressive record of public service. I look forward to working with him in his new role and I stand ready to lend any expertise that I can,” Snohomish County Auditor Garth Fell said.

Precinct committee officers of the 44th District will nominate three people to replace Hobbs. A meeting to make the selection could be held by the end of the month, a Democratic official said Wednesday.

State Rep. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, wants the job and started calling precinct leaders Wednesday. State Rep. April Berg, D-Mill Creek, said she supports her district mate in that pursuit.

The Snohomish County Council will choose one of the three nominees to serve until the November 2022 election.

Jerry Cornfield: jcornfield@heraldnet.com; 360-352-8623; Twitter: @dospueblos.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Lake Serene in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. (U.S. Forest Service)
How will climate change affect you? New tool gives an educated guess

The Climate Vulnerability Tool outlines climate hazards in Snohomish County — and it may help direct resources.

A cliff above the Pilchuck River shows signs of erosion Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, in Lake Stevens, Washington. Lake Connor Park sits atop the cliff. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Hill erodes in Lake Connor Park, forcing residents of 8 lots to vacate

The park has just under 1,500 members east of Lake Stevens. The riverside hill usually loses 18 inches a year. But it was more this year.

A Cessna 150 crashed north of Paine Field on Friday evening, Feb. 16, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. The pilot survived without serious injury. (Courtesy of Richard Newman.)
Small plane lost power in crash north of Paine Field, flight club says

The pilot reportedly called 911, stuck in a tree, on Friday. The sole occupant survived “without a scratch,” the president of Puget Sound Flyers said.

Ken Florczak, president of the five-member board at Sherwood Village Mobile Home community on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024 in Mill Creek, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
How Mill Creek mobile home residents bought the land under their feet

At Sherwood Village, residents are now homeowners. They pay a bit more each month to keep developers from buying their property.

A Cessna 150 crashed north of Paine Field on Friday evening, Feb. 16, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. The pilot survived without serious injury. (Courtesy of Richard Newman.)
‘I’m stuck in the trees’: 911 call recounts plane crash near Paine Field

Asad Ali was coming in for a landing in a Cessna 150 when he crashed into woods south of Mukilteo. Then he called 911 — for 48 minutes.

The Snohomish County Jail is pictured on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Jails had ‘immunity’ to lawsuits over overdoses — so her family settled

In 2018, Denise Huffer died of a methamphetamine overdose in her cell at the Snohomish County Jail. Her family took a $50,000 deal in February.

A heart shaped hand tossed pepperoni pizza, left, and eight-corner Detroit style veggie pizza, right, from Jet’s Pizza on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, at the Everett Herald newsroom in Everett. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Detroit-original Jet’s Pizza lands in WA with thick-crust pies and more

The national chain’s Lynnwood joint is the first in the state. The pizza is tasty — hot or cold. And it makes good date food.

Providence nurses picket in front of the hospital during the first day of their planned five-day strike Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023, at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Months after strike, nurses reach contract with Providence Everett

The new contract, 10 months in the making, includes bonuses and extra pay to counterbalance chronic understaffing.

on Wednesday February 21, 2024 in Snohomish. (Photo provided by Snohomish County Fire District #4)
Woman dies after suspected DUI crash on US 2 near Snohomish

A driver crossed the center line and crashed head-on into a minivan Wednesday night, killing a Monroe woman, troopers said.

Arlington
Police: Arlington man who shot at house detained after standoff

Deputies said the man barricaded himself for five hours early Thursday in his house in the 23200 block of 115th Avenue NE.

Lyla Anderson and others sign a petition to save the Clark Park gazebo during a “heart bomb” event hosted by Historic Everett on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘Too much Everett to throw away’? Gazebo’s impending end stirs emotions

A demolition date hasn’t been confirmed for the Clark Park gazebo, but city staff said it’s too expensive to save. “The decision’s been made.”

A person turns in their ballot at a ballot box located near the Edmonds Library in Edmonds, Washington on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Presidential primary ballots en route to Snohomish County voters

Voters must indicate a party preference to vote for a candidate. Ballots are due March 12.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.