By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Eight days after the general election, Gov. Jay Inslee offered the Secretary of State position to Sen. Steve Hobbs. The former Secretary Kim Wyman, a Republican, accepted a job in President Joe Biden’s administration as cyber security chief. The process for Hobbs to sit in Wyman’s chair would be the envy for Democrats who had challenged and ran against her since 2012. It was smooth sailing for Hobbs.
Hobbs is the first person of color for the position, and he’s become the third most powerful politician in state government behind the governor and lieutenant governor. Aside from Hawaii, Washington state might be the only state with Asians accounting for 10% of the population, and yet Asian Americans have held and currently hold the top three jobs in the state. Gary Locke as the first Asian American governor 1997-2005, Cyrus Habib as the first Asian American lieutenant governor 2017-2021, and now Hobbs as Secretary of State.
Of Japanese descent, Hobbs, a moderate Democrat, was just as surprised as other Asian community members that he got the job. It was his colleagues who encouraged him to apply.
You think that it would be a process of filling out application forms, a formal interview with the governor, and an extended form of vetting. But there were no forms to fill out, no formal interviews, nor letters of recommendation. Instead, it was a simple phone call Hobbs made to the governor the same day as Wyman’s announcement of her new job on Twitter.
The call was short. How short? “Ten minutes?” I asked. Hobbs paused to recall. “Five minutes?” I asked again.
“No, a minute or two, it’s not that long,” Hobbs said. Perhaps, the governor had not even heard the news that Wyman was leaving, he said, “He (Inslee) just said, ‘Thanks for your interest.’”
Hobbs was not the only one surprised that Inslee gave him the job, so was his wife and Japanese immigrant mother. Hobbs thought the appointment was “incredible” because he and Inslee don’t agree all the time.
“We don’t agree on a lot of things, like the tax policy, but we agree more than disagree.”
On Nov. 10, Inslee was attending the World Climate Change Conference in Scotland. At 11 o’clock in the morning, Hobbs got a call from Inslee’s chief of staff, “You got the job.”
At 12:04 p.m., the Northwest Asian Weekly received a video announcement from Inslee’s press office. Inslee announced Hobb’s appointment on that video.
The Asian Weekly had asked Inslee’s office how many people applied for the job. Inslee’s office told us they spoke to half a dozen candidates.
Hobbs said he learned from news reports that four or five people were interested in the job. And it didn’t include anyone from the legislature. Hobbs also doesn’t know if any Republicans approached Inslee for the job.
Hobbs was asked if he had people lobby on his behalf? “No,” he said, as he was “concentrating on the Senate transportation budget. I am the chair negotiating the next year’s budget.”
In addition to representing the 44th Legislative District in the state Senate since 2007, Hobbs is also a Lieutenant Colonel in the Washington State National Guard and has been with the agency for 32 years. The Secretary job couldn’t be more timely as Hobbs just graduated from a nine-week course offered by the Department of Defense information school, which taught him how to combat false information.
During last year’s election, former President Trump claimed voter fraud. Hobbs said the course taught him how to deal with false information and outreach.
Cyber security related to national security has always been Hobbs’ interest.
Since Hobbs is fulfilling the last year of Wyman’s term, Hobbs has to run for re-election next year in the middle of the busiest time of the Secretary of State office—congressional districts’ elections. “It’s not the worst,” he said. He had seen the worst in the national guard.
Hobbs has already started his re-election campaign. And he proudly told the Asian Weekly, “I already have Gary Locke’s endorsement.”
Hobbs said his mom would probably be campaigning for him, too.
“She was the first one to show me a copy of the Asian Weekly with my story on it.”
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.