OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Steve Hobbs was sworn in Monday as Washington’s 16th secretary of state, the first person of color to head the office and the first Democrat to hold the position in 56 years.
Hobbs, who is of Japanese descent, is leaving his Senate seat representing the 44th legislative district to replace Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman. Wyman — the fifth consecutive GOP secretary of state in Washington dating back to 1965 — is taking a key election security job in the Biden administration.
Hobbs was sworn in by state Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu in the state reception room at the state Capitol, after which he thanked Wyman in his speech, saying that she understood and dealt with the threats of cyber and information warfare in the elections sphere.
“I’m going to build upon that,” he said. “And I’m glad that we’ll have a partner in Washington, D.C. to build upon that.”
Wyman will serve as the election security lead for the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the agency responsible for safeguarding U.S. elections. In the role, she will serve as the federal government’s top liaison to the states.
Hobbs said that in addition to building upon cybersecurity efforts in the state, he plans to create a plan to respond to misinformation and disinformation that hits elections.
“The last thing we need is to have our democracy eroded by people believing that their election system is not secure, when it is secure,” he said
The last Democratic secretary of state in Washington was Vic Meyers, who was elected in 1956 and served two terms. Meyers was denied a third term in 1964, when he was defeated by Republican Lud Kramer.
Earlier this month, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee announced that Hobbs — considered a centrist in the Senate Democratic caucus — was his pick. Unlike vacancies in other partisan offices, like the Legislature or county offices, the governor is not limited to appointing someone from a specific political party.
Hobbs grew up in Snohomish County and has represented a portion of that county in the Senate since 2007. He served for decades in the U.S. Army, serving in Iraq and Kosovo, and currently serves as a lieutenant colonel in the Washington State National Guard.
Hobbs will serve until the general election in November 2022, which will determine who will serve the remaining two years of Wyman’s four-year term. He has said that that he plans to run in that election.
An appointment process to replace Hobbs in the Senate will take place in Snohomish County, and Democratic Rep. John Lovick has already said he is seeking the appointment. Three names will be ultimately be put forth by Snohomish County Democrats, and the Snohomish County Council will choose who will serve the remainder of Hobbs’ term through November 2022.
In addition to being the state’s chief elections officer, the secretary of state also serves as chief corporations officer and supervisor of the state archives and state library.