OLYMPIA — For Democrats, the Washington Secretary of State’s Office is the ever-elusive unicorn: Since 1964, voters have chosen Republicans for the job.
On Tuesday, Jeff Winmill announced he’d seek to break Democrats’ losing streak by running against Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman.
It’s too soon to know whether other Democrats will jump in and whether Winmill, a 41-year-old Seattle attorney, will ultimately stand for the 2020 general election.
But with Wyman on Tuesday saying she’ll seek a third term, the 2020 contest could well be one of the most bitterly fought in the state. With Democrats outraged and energized by President Donald Trump, Winmill is already trying to tie Wyman to the president.
The secretary of state oversees elections, and the registrations of voters, nonprofits and businesses.
The race likely will include debate over voter access and election security, amid the backdrop of foreign interference in American politics.
Winmill touts his experience as a staffer on Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, as well as work on voter-protection issues in Colorado for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Democratic presidential campaign.
In 2018, Winmill, who says he has lived here a little over two years, worked on voter protection for the Washington State Democrats.
When it comes to the Secretary of State’s Office, he said, “I think it’s all about increasing access and making voting more secure.”
Winmill said the current officeholder hasn’t worked hard enough on those issues, adding: “I think Secretary Wyman has been in there for maybe too long.”
And his campaign website seeks to link Wyman to Trump.
“With Donald Trump in the White House and the very real possibility of a second Trump/Pence term, we can no longer afford a ‘business as usual’ mentality from the Secretary of State’s office,” it reads.
Wyman could well be considered a unicorn in her own right: She’s one of the last statewide elected Republicans in America’s Pacific Time Zone.
A former Thurston County auditor, Wyman was elected statewide in 2012 and reelected in 2016.
It has since emerged that Russian agents in 2016 targeted election systems in all 50 states. Interlopers scanned Washington state’s elections systems, searching for weak spots, but did not breach the system.
Wyman has since focused on tightening election security, including calling in Washington National Guard cyber-specialists for last year’s midterm elections.
Washington’s elections are considered safer than many other states, according to national experts, in no small part because of mail-in ballots.
Wyman has also led the at-times bumpy rollout of a new statewide voter database.
In an interview, she said she welcomes the competition.
As far as Winmill trying to link her to Trump, she said, “I think that my opponent’s trying to conflate that partisan politics of Washington, D.C., with our Washington.”
As of Tuesday, Wyman had raised $222,172, according to state campaign-finance records. Her campaign has a little over $100,000 on hand.