Washington’s only statewide elected Republican squared off in a debate Wednesday against her Democratic opponent. Can Kim Wyman fend off a challenge from former Seattle City Councilmember Tina Podlodowski?

Share story

SPOKANE — In a nearly hourlong election debate Wednesday, Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Democratic challenger Tina Podlodowski traded accusations about each other’s résumés and records.

Wyman, elected to the position in 2012, and Podlodowski clashed over election turnout, voting rights and registration.

But the debate was as much about style as issues. Podlodow­ski, the executive and former one-term Seattle City Council member, described herself as a proud partisan willing to use the office to evaluate whether the advisory votes spurred by anti-tax activist Tim Eyman are worthwhile. She also promised to advocate for expanding voter registration and proposed an audit of the state’s election system to see how it could be improved.

“This is a system that needs to be voting-centric,” said Podlodowski.

Podlodowski repeatedly attacked Wyman’s record, accusing the incumbent of not making good on campaign promises to improve online access for businesses and presiding over declining election turnout.

“I don’t think we have to accept poor performance when it comes to turnout,” Podlodowski said.

Wyman, meanwhile, cited her long experience in overseeing elections and emphasized a more nonpartisan role for the office.

“What I can tell you is that I’ve earned the trust of the people who have actually learned to conduct an election,” said Wyman, adding, “Elections are more important than partisan politics.”

Wyman said she is the only candidate who could bring Democrats and Republicans together to pass a voting-rights act aimed at ensuring voters are proportionately represented in government.

Wyman, the sole Republican holding a statewide elected office in Washington, called Podlodowski’s attacks a way of “deflecting from (Podlodowski’s) résumé and experience.”

The incumbent said that Podlodowski, a former Microsoft manager, doesn’t have the experience necessary to lead an office that oversees elections, as well as registrations of voters, businesses and nonprofits.

“Tina touts her tech experience,” Wyman said. “I would remind you that when Tina was at Microsoft, Microsoft was exchanging data on floppy disks.”

The two women participated in a debate hosted by the Association of Washington Business. Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee and GOP challenger Bill Bryant held their first debate on the same stage later Wednesday.

Wyman is a former Thurston County auditor who for a decade oversaw elections there.

She touts that experience and the endorsement of county officials and former secretaries of state Sam Reed, Ralph Munro and Bruce Chapman.

Wyman has pledged that, if re-elected, she’ll continue work to modernize and secure voter registration and election systems, increase voter participation and boost accessibility to the State Library and Archives.

Podlodowski is a former Microsoft manager who was elected to the Seattle City Council in 1995. She later served as executive director of the Lifelong AIDS Alliance, and for part of 2014 she advised Seattle Mayor Ed Murray on police issues.