OLYMPIA, Wash. — Steve Hobbs will remain Washington's secretary of state after challenger Julie Anderson conceded Nov. 10.
Hobbs holds a slight lead with 49% of the vote to Anderson's 47%.
Hobbs is the first non-Republican candidate to win the secretary of state seat in nearly 60 years. Hobbs was appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee to assume the role when former Secretary of State Kim Wyman left office in November 2021 to take an election security position with the Biden administration.
"We made history! I’m honored that voters have put their faith in me and endorsed the work we’ve done this past year ensuring Washington’s elections are secure, transparent, and accessible to all. My thanks to Auditor Anderson for her service and spirited campaign," Hobbs said in a statement. "I’m deeply humbled to be the first Democrat elected to this office in nearly 60 years, as well as the first person of color to serve in this role. I look forward to continue serving all Washingtonians."
An unusual number of write-in votes, more than 50,000 of them, potentially impacted the outcome of the election, garnering 3% of the total votes cast.
State Representative Brad Klippert, a Republican from Kennewick, ran a write-in campaign endorsed last month by the state Republican Party for the secretary of state seat, garnering tens of thousands of write-in votes, which is atypical for a state election. Klippert questioned the validity of the 2020 elections and called for an end to mail-in ballots in Washington.
"By comparison, in the US Senate race, there's about 3,200 write-in votes, so something's going on here, and in a close race, this does matter," said Austin Jenkins, a reporter for Pluribus News and host of Inside Olympia.
Jenkins called the write-in results for Klippert and others “off the charts.”
Last week, Inslee and state Democratic Chair Tina Podlodowski got on a Zoom call to urge voters not to write in Klippert’s name – something the candidate said probably helped him earn more write-in votes.
“If I were here with him today, I would say thank you for you doing that, for saying my name over and over and over again to the people of Washington state,” Klippert said.
The representative said he didn’t do as well as he hoped in the secretary of state election and isn’t concerned about whether his write-in campaign potentially changed the outcome.
“I ran to win, I ran because I think we need to have a more secure election process in Washington state with a whole lot more transparency,” he said.
Hobbs will get to serve the remaining two years of Wyman's four-year term.
Before Hobbs was appointed to the secretary of state position, he served as a senator for the 44th Legislative District. He was first elected in 2006. He is also a lieutenant colonel in the Washington Army National Guard. In 2020 he was mobilized to command 750 service members during Washington's COVID-19 response. He was responsible for all Guard personnel located at western Washington food banks from Skagit County to Pierce County.
Hobbs said he is focusing on ensuring elections are secure and accessible to every eligible voter. He said he is prepared to lead the state through election security challenges as cybersecurity threats and attacks become more sophisticated.
Although he's running for a seat that has been long held by Republicans against a nonpartisan challenger, Hobbs said his ability to work across the aisle would make him successful in this office.
"The great thing about this office is it has been run by individuals who can work across the aisle in a bipartisan manner. The last three secretaries of state were partisan, they're Republican and they were respected, and I'm in the same position," Hobbs said. "... You know I'm not going to back away from being a Democrat, I am pro-choice pro-environment, pro-labor, but I can still work across the aisle which I've done on many many occasions."
WATCH: KING 5's full interview with Incumbent Secretary of State Steve Hobbs
Anderson, the Pierce County auditor, issued a statement saying she knew "this would be a tough race."
"Voters deserved to have the choice of an experienced elections administrator - without party strings," the former nonpartisan candidate continued. "While many voters made that choice, it wasn't quite enough."
WATCH: KING 5's full interview with Secretary of State Candidate Julie Anderson