Kim Wyman, Secretary of State in the state of Washington, is set to become the top election security official in the country, deciding to depart from her political party on the way.
Wyman, a 59-year-old Republican recently elected to her third term, told the Associated Press she plans to come to her new position with the same philosophy she’s always had: “Party politics aren’t as important as our country’s elections.”
She will lead the election security team in the Department of Homeland Security‘s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which is responsible for maintaining safe and fair elections across the country.
Leading up to the 2020 election, Wyman was a frequent advocate for the fairness of the current election system, including the safety of mail-in voting while it was under attack by many in her own party, including then-President Donald Trump.
“There wasn’t fraud in this election,” she said. “As a Republican, and having people within my own party accusing me of all sorts of things, what I know to be true is the great job that people did in the election sphere.”
As she prepares to leave the state for her new position next week, Wyman said she still considers herself a Republican in the sense that she stands for the values “that Ronald Reagan espoused 40 years ago…” including small government, a strong military and lower taxes.
She said the party has lost track of those principles and everyone just wants to determine if each other is a “real Republican” or not, which is just one of the several reasons she is planning to register as an independent voter in her new home.
In addition, she said it’s to ensure her position leading election security remains politically neutral, and she’s also “kind of ready to step away from politics in every way right now.”
For more reporting from The Associated Press, see below.
In the role, she will serve as the federal government’s top liaison to the states.
“This is one of those unique opportunities that doesn’t come often in your career, where your experience and your knowledge are exactly what is needed at a certain point in time,” Wyman told the Associated Press during a recent interview in her office.
Matt Masterson, who held Wyman’s new position from 2018 until December 2020, has known her for years and said she “is the absolutely perfect person to come into this role.”
“Elections security is not a partisan issue and Kim gets that and understands what needs to be done to support state and local officials so that they can run a secure process,” said Masterson, who is now a non-resident fellow at Stanford, doing research and work on election security and misinformation surrounding elections.
Last October, Wyman published the book “Elections 2020: Controlling Chaos: How Foreign Interference, a Global Pandemic, and Political Polarization Threaten U.S. Democracy.”
She said that many of the threats that existed back in 2016 and into 2020 have not gone away.
“Obviously foreign threat actors are still going to try to undermine our elections and try to infiltrate them,” she said. “The misinformation and disinformation campaigns continue to this day and we need to have ways to combat that.”
Last week, Governor Jay Inslee appointed Democratic Senator Steve Hobbs to replace her. Hobbs will be sworn in Monday and serve until the general election in November 2022, which will determine who will serve the remainder of Wyman’s four-year term.
Wyman said she knows she is letting some people down by leaving before the conclusion of her term and breaking the chain of GOP secretaries of state in order to take the position within the Biden administration, but said “this is a call of duty to serve my country and that takes precedence.”
Rep. J.T. Wilcox, the state House minority leader, said that while he’s disappointed to see her go, Wyman “has been very steadfast in never allowing herself to be the least bit partisan.”
He noted that she faced two tough reelection bids and prevailed over her Democratic opponents in years where political divisiveness was high.
“It’s always a gift in politics when the best route to winning is just being yourself,” he said.
In a statement issued last month when news of Wyman’s appointment was announced, Inslee praised her work in the state, writing that he had “no doubt that her expertise, energy and focus will lead to more secure elections and help restore faith in the democratic process.”
“I may return to politics down the road, but right now I’m just going to be an independent American for a while,” she said.