Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman held an edge in her reelection bid on Tuesday as she hoped to fend off a Democratic challenger who made the president’s attacks on mail-in voting a key issue of the campaign.
Wyman led Rep. Gael Tarleton, D-Seattle, with 51.75% of Tuesday’s vote count, and had more votes in all but King and three other counties.
A former Thurston County auditor and elections administrator, Wyman is seeking a third term as the state’s top elections official, a post Republicans have held for more than a half-century and Democrats have long sought to flip.
Throughout the campaign, Wyman touted her nearly three decades of experience overseeing elections at the county and state level. Her campaign did not provide a statement Tuesday night.
Tarleton entered the race spotlighting her own national security credentials and calling for stronger election security. A four-term state lawmaker, Tarleton is a former Port of Seattle commissioner and senior defense intelligence analyst for the Pentagon.
“We’ve shown that Washington needs an elections official who will protect every vote and every voter, no matter where the threat comes from,” Tarleton said in a statement.
Amid Trump’s jabs that mail balloting would sow chaos in the election, Tarleton criticized Wyman for not going far enough in directly condemning the president’s remarks and for not joining the Washington state attorney general’s lawsuit challenging U.S. Postal Service changes this summer.
Those changes were blamed for backlogs and delivery delays, which raised concern over the timely delivery of ballots. A judge suspended the post office changes until after the election.
Wyman, one of only a handful of Republicans to hold a statewide office on the West Coast, sought to allay fears stemming from the president’s remarks and expressed concern over the Postal Service changes.
She said in a debate in September that it was her job to inspire confidence in voting, not engage in a partisan fight over voting by mail.
Her office gave advice to other states during the pandemic as they expanded mail balloting. She also gained national attention as a defender of voting by mail.
In addition to conducting elections, the Washington secretary of state oversees business, nonprofit and voter registrations.
If reelected, Wyman has proposed moving the August primaries to the spring to boost voter turnout and allowing for voters who do not claim affiliation with a political party to cast ballots in the presidential primaries.
She also favors changing the Secretary of State’s Office from a partisan to nonpartisan position.
Tarleton’s platform includes expanding automatic voter registration and strengthening the process for ensuring signatures on ballots are verified.