Republicans Express Grudging Respect for Inslee’s Secretary of State Pick

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() Some Washington Republicans gave far-left Gov. Jay Inslee grudging respect Wednesday for his appointment of state Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, to fill the coming secretary of state vacancy.

“The Governor made a choice that seems designed to remove an opponent of his policies from the Legislature,” said state House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox.

Wilcox predicted that the Hobbs pick “also means that one or possibly two seats in the swing 44th [legislative district] will be essentially open in the ’22 election.”

“Considering that Sen. Hobbs, as Senate Transportation Chair, has been a roadblock to Inslee’s radical scheme for higher transportation taxes, you could say that it was a master political move on Inslee’s part to get rid of Hobbs,” said Luanne Van Werven, a former state representative from Whatcom County and former acting head of the state GOP. “Anything less than a far-left progressive is not welcome in the modern day Democratic Party.”

Both Wilcox and Van Werven had previously called on Inslee to appoint a Republican to replace Kim Wyman, the only Republican statewide elected official not just in Washington state but on the whole West Coast, when she leaves to join the Biden administration as an election security expert on Nov. 19.

Hobbs is not a Republican, but the Democratic official does meet one criterion that Wilcox had emphasized when he publicly recommended two Republicans for the job: service in the military.

Hobbs has served in both Iraq and Kosovo. He is currently a lieutenant colonel in Washington state’s National Guard.

“There is nothing more sacred than the right to vote,” Hobbs said in a statement that accompanied the governor’s announcement. “I’ve fought for that right overseas and will do everything in my power to protect that right here in Washington.”

The appointment was announced on the same day that the Washington Supreme Court handed down a victory to the legislature over Inslee’s selective veto of a legislative “grand bargain” that Hobbs, as chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, had helped to cobble together.

The legislature passed bills that addressed climate change but included the requirement that these measures would not go into effect until the legislature passed another bill that pared down Washington’s gas tax, which is currently at 49.4 cents per gallon before the federal government takes its bite.

Inslee tried to veto the sentences that made a lower gas tax a precondition of climate change abatement. The legislature sued, insisting that’s not how the veto power is supposed to work in Washington state.

The state Supreme Court ruled for the legislature. Washington governors may strike down whole bills, sections of bills, or even specific appropriations, but they may not go through and edit bills to get a wholly different outcome than what the legislature intended, the court said.

The announcement also came less than a week after Taylor Wonhoff, the governor’s deputy general legal counsel, put in an unusual public records request for emails and documents from Hobbs, three other Democratic state senators, and two senior policy counsel to the Senate Democrats, related to the “grand bargain” legislation and lawsuit.

Hobbs will face the voters in 2022 to see if he can serve out the rest of Wyman’s term, which was scheduled to last until early 2025.

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