OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday announced his appointment of Democratic Sen. Steve Hobbs to temporarily serve as secretary of state in the wake of Kim Wyman’s departure for the Biden administration.

Hobbs, a longtime lawmaker, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee and lieutenant colonel in the Washington National Guard, steps into an increasingly high-profile role.

Last month, Wyman — Washington’s only Republican elected to a statewide position — announced her resignation as secretary of state to take a key federal election-security job. The secretary of state oversees Washington’s election system, including voting security.

Wyman over the years built a national profile for her work with voting and ballot security, and defended vote-by-mail from both foreign interlopers and domestic actors bent on overturning elections, or sowing mistrust in them.

Inslee’s appointment of Hobbs — a moderate from Lake Stevens with no direct election experience who has clashed with the governor over legislation — also offers potential for Democrats to get a new senator in Snohomish County’s 44th Legislative District who might stick closer to party leadership.

And the appointment sets up a statewide contest for secretary of state next year, an office Republicans have won every election since 1964.


In a news conference Wednesday, Hobbs acknowledged his lack of election experience compared with Wyman and former Secretary of State Sam Reed, both former Thurston County Auditors.

Instead, Hobbs pointed to his military service, including his recent work on COVID-19 relief efforts.

“But what I do have is the management and leadership experience,” he said. “I commanded 750 service members in the COVID response in Western Washington for … almost two years.”

Hobbs said he wants to use the office to battle election misinformation in real time, and continue protecting voters from attacks from foreign governments and other bad actors.

“The secretary of state’s office needs to take up that role of being a protector of our election system,” Hobbs said. “The governor wanted to pick somebody who is aware of the national security implications of protecting our election system.”

Hobbs holds a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington, according to Inslee’s office. He also recently finished a defense information school program through the U.S. Department of Defense and has gone through officer training from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.


In a statement Wednesday, Washington State Republican Party Chairman Caleb Heimlich described the appointment as “a crass political move by Governor Inslee to help pass his radical liberal agenda by removing an obstacle from the State Senate.”

“This selection is a complete disservice to the voters who elected an elections professional and now are getting someone with little to no technical experience,” Heimlich added in prepared remarks.

Hobbs — who unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor in the 2016 primary — said he intends to run for secretary of state next year.

First elected to the senate in 2006 in what was once known as a swing district, Hobbs has broken with Democrats over the years and faced criticism from progressives even as he pushed backed challenges from conservative candidates.

He voted against big-ticket Democratic legislation such as the new long-term care program that passed in 2019, as well as the tax on capital gains approved this spring.

Hobbs for a time foiled the governor’s proposed low-carbon fuels standard from his perch as chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. When that bill finally passed the Legislature this spring, Hobbs voted against it.


The governor announced the appointment of Hobbs via video from Glasgow, Scotland, where he was attending the United Nations’ climate change conference.

Hobbs will be sworn in Nov. 22.

In a statement, Inslee cited the senator’s political independence, which he described as “crucial during this time of political polarization and distrust.”

“He is a moderate who has worked effectively with people of all political perspectives,” the governor said in prepared remarks. “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.”


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Hobbs, who is Asian American, will be the first person of color to be secretary of state, according to Inslee’s office.

He replaces Wyman, first elected to the statewide position in 2012, and then reelected in 2016 and 2020 despite strong challenges from Democrats.

Wyman has bucked Republicans elsewhere and refused to follow baseless conspiracy theories from former President Donald Trump and others about last year’s election.


In a statement, Wyman praised Hobbs’ selection.

“It is imperative the secretary of state — the state’s chief elections official — serve as a neutral arbiter in order to inspire confidence across the political spectrum in our election processes and results,” Wyman said.

“This approach is just as essential when overseeing the preservation of and access to our state’s historical treasures, providing a streamlined registration process for Washington corporations and charities, administering various community programs, and so much more,” Wyman added.

Hobbs will fill the position through next November’s general election, and that winner will serve through 2024, the remainder of Wyman’s elected term.