Kim Wyman’s challenger completely bungled attack

Tina Podlodowski, a former Seattle City Councilmember, is challenging Washington’s lone statewide Republican officeholder, Secretary of State Kim Wyman. Last week Podlodowski generated her first headlines of the campaign since her January announcement and acquitted herself so poorly that it will disqualify her in some minds.

As is often the case when a media opportunity is so cheap and not at all thought out, Podlodowski’s stunt didn’t go well. The whole kerfuffle was about the state’s presidential primary, which is your chance as a voter to influence the national process. Podlodowski announced, “I’m calling on my opponent in the secretary of state race to cancel this taxpayer-funded empty exercise immediately.”

That this is a particularly dumb idea has been covered elsewhere, but I’ll summarize the problems.

  1. By the time Podlodowski called for cancelling the primary, it was far too late. She timed her criticism for maximum press attention, not to actually change the situation or offer anything useful. That’s why it was so cheap.
  2. 65,000 military and overseas ballots were already in the mail when Podlodowski made her announcement. She either knew this and made her attack anyway, or she didn’t know a key fact about how our mail-in elections work. She’s running to be the chief elections officer of the state. “It is impossible to cancel an election that is already underway,” Wyman’s spokesman said.
  3. Podlodowski calls it a “vanity primary” because the parties’ contests are basically over, but it’s her party that blocked Wyman’s bill to move it to March. Wyman’s bill last year would have moved the presidential primary to March 8, when Washington voters would have had far more influence on the outcome. Democrats in the Legislature killed the bill. If Podlodowski believes the timing of our primary stinks, she should have supported Wyman’s bill to move it up.
  4. It’s also Podlodowski’s party that pays no attention to the primary results. She said, “It makes no sense to waste further taxpayer dollars on this effort just to build voter lists for the Republican Party.” That criticism is pure cover for the fact that Washington State Democrats completely ignore their primary voters and the results don’t affect delegate selection at all, in stark contrast to the Republicans. When asked about that, Podlodowski fumbled the obvious follow-up question.
  5. Most importantly, the Secretary of State has no authority under the law to cancel the presidential primary! Yet Podlodowski called on Wyman to do so anyway. Like the military ballots issue, it’s another instance where Podlodowski either knew the facts and ignored them, or even worse, she didn’t know them in the first place. The Seattle Times wrote, “Podlodowski’s request is disturbing because it implies she believes the secretary of state — a partisan office — should be able to unilaterally cancel an election that is required by law. The state elections chief has no such power, nor should she. This is a democracy, not a banana republic.”

When challenged on that last one, Podlodowski’s spokeswoman doubled down, unfortunately:

Podlodowski’s campaign spokeswoman, Maddie Foutch, was unable to cite a legal authority for Wyman to halt the primary, but insisted it was “irresponsible of Kim Wyman to let this go on.”

Wyman replied that Podlodowski’s demands show the challenger’s lack of experience and limited understanding of the job. Voters could have had the primary in March if leaders of Podlodowski’s party hadn’t blocked efforts to move the date up, she added.

Talk about a rough start to a campaign. This election will offer a stark contrast between a competent elections professional like Kim Wyman and Tina Podlodowski, who displayed her lack of knowledge about our elections and completely bungled an attempt to score cheap political points. Should be fun.
-Rob McKenna

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Rob McKenna
Rob served two terms as Washington’s Attorney General, from 2005 to 2013. He successfully argued three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and negotiated three of the largest consumer financial protection settlements in national history, all involving mortgage lending and servicing. He is a recognized leader in the development of consumer protections on the internet, in data protection and privacy regulation.