A lot to do and not much time to do it

Sec. of State Steve Hobbs talks about his future plans with term set to expire

Less than four months removed from a special election victory that saw him become the first Democrat to be duly elected to the Washington Secretary of State Office in nearly 60 years, Steve Hobbs expressed the nature of the job as being fun but also under the gun in terms of time.

“It’s tough because usually how it works is you get elected and then you got four years to set up your office versus my situation where I got in there having to set up the office while also running and if I win, which thankfully I did, I don’t have a full four years, I only got two. One of which will be used in campaigning for a new term,” said Hobbs in a sit-down interview with The Daily World.

Although Hobbs wasn’t a household name to many before serving as the 16th Secretary of State in Washington’s history, he isn’t a political newcomer. He served 14 years in the Washington state Senate representing the 44th District out of Snohomish County before being appointed to the vacant Secretary of State post by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee in 2021 when Kim Wyman, a Republican, was appointed to a cybersecurity position within the Biden Administration.

Facing a unique challenge with his general election opponent being an independent candidate, Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, Hobbs looked back on previous campaigns to help him secure his office for a little longer, as well as reflected on the differences he encountered.

“Luckily I had run statewide before for Lieutenant Governor and Congress one time. You just have to pick and choose where you’re going to go to try and campaign for support. The swing areas are vital to be campaigning in,” Hobbs explained. “The good news is no doorbelling. That’s always great because I spent a lot of my time doorbelling when I was in the state senate.”

While Hobbs was given the green light by Washingtonians back in November 2022, he has less than two years before having to convince the public he should hold the position for a full term. However, campaigning isn’t at the top of Hobbs’s agenda right now.

“Main goal is to fill the positions for the budget requests that were done last year but also get programs off the ground for the library, more services for people who are incarcerated, and a path to employment for people being released from prison,” Hobbs detailed.

More than 350 people work under Hobbs’s discretion at the office of the Secretary of State. According to Hobbs, however, he’s hoping to fill up to 60 positions across the Office such as cybersecurity division and election security areas. For a long time, many politicians throughout the country in Hobbs’s position have mostly flown under the radar, being prominently known for administering elections. However, due to rampant election conspiracies, many Secretary of State politicians have been put under the microscope.

“It’s easily the part of my job that gives me the biggest headache. We’ve taken for granted how we do voting that now we need to show people how the life of their ballot is when the moment they get it to the moment we certify it,” Hobbs explained.

As a result, one of Hobbs’s biggest goals before his term expires is to get SB 5378 passed. The bill, which is currently in committee in the state Senate revolves around voter education to prepare jurisdictions that are changing their voter system.

“My biggest fear is that, like the city of Seattle, they’re going ranked-choice voting. But what the advocates are not looking at is the harm that does to immigrant communities and the DD (Developmental Disabilities) community,” Hobbs said. “You have citizens where English is not their first language, and they will not understand this new voting process. It’s likely they’ll do it improperly and they’re not going to have as much influence as they should have with everybody else.”

While Seattle won’t switch their voting of local leaders to ranked-choice voting until 2025, Hobbs believes that without the proper education, it could lead to voters becoming disenfranchised. When asked if Hobbs is a personal supporter of ranked-choice voting, he said that he doesn’t have a problem with the system but feels that “now is not the time to change things.”

Hobbs also expressed his desire to see more libraries installed in state prisons and juvenile detention facilities citing that a pilot program he introduced saw 75% of the incarcerated population in one of the correctional facilities check out a book. While he noted that most work needs to be done to establish this program, he hopes that it can be one of the few programs that will help incarcerated individuals get help with finding employment when their release is granted.

Perhaps one of the more exciting developments in Hobbs’s tenure is the progression of a new library-archive building in Olympia. While the building is completely designed now, Hobbs hopes a permit will be granted by the end of the year and construction is done in 2026. The archive would allow people to explore and browse the rich history the state has.

With the 2024 General Election drawing closer by the day, Hobbs still expressed his desire to keep election security at the forefront of his agenda citing that he wants to continue with his ‘Vote With Confidence” campaign his office launched shortly before the 2022 General Election. With most of the major state-wide offices, and several prominent federal offices up for election in Washington, Hobbs wants people to feel that their vote is secure and move through the cycle with as much ease as possible.

“Heck, with all the people running next year, hopefully I can just sail under the radar this time around,” Hobbs laughed.

Contact Reporter Allen Leister at 360-463-3572 0r allen.leister@thedailyworld.com