With all the coverage of the gubernatorial matchup between incumbent Gov. Brad Little and rogue Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, fewer Idahoans are attuned to what’s at stake in another extremely important statewide office, Secretary of State.
The Idaho Secretary of State oversees business services (including e-filing for annual reports, online searching for business information, and more) and elections (ensuring the accuracy and integrity of Idaho’s elections and making sure every vote is counted and campaign finances are transparent and easy to access by the public). The SoS has a powerful seat on the state’s Land Board, responsible for managing more than 2.5 million acres of Idaho’s public lands.
Of the three candidates running, Phil McGrane enters the race with the distinction of being the only candidate with election experience. Born and raised in Idaho, McGrane’s career has largely been spent in and around election administration, and he was elected Ada County Clerk of the District Court in 2018. As clerk for Ada County, McGrane has become a leader in elections policy, often providing expert testimony on voting legislation at the Statehouse.
This experience has won McGrane a wide range of endorsements, including a late-breaking nod from Governor Little himself last night. Little joins the Fraternal Order of Police, firefighters, and all living former Idaho Governors in endorsing McGrane, citing his proven track record and knowledge of cybersecurity. McGrane is the only county clerk in Idaho to have actually prosecuted a voter fraud case in 2020. He’s also raised the most money at just over $360,000, showing broad support from the business community, including Simplot and Micron, as well as many agricultural and food processing associations.
Challenging McGrane is former state legislator Dorothy Moon. She is running with fewer Republican endorsements but enjoys the backing of the powerful, national Club For Growth PAC. Locally, she has the endorsement of the Idaho Freedom Foundation PAC, Idaho Freedom Action.
Moon calls central Idaho home but was raised in the Ozarks in Missouri. She worked in special education and for her family’s gold mining operation before being elected to the Idaho Legislature. On the funding front, Moon has raised just over $240,000, a significant portion from herself and her company, Moon & Associates, and backers Doyle Beck and Stephen Gleason, who both made recent news for their bankrolling of Citizens Alliance of Idaho PAC. Moon has long been an ally of Ammon Bundy, but like many Bundy followers has more recently aligned herself closely with Janice McGeachin, speaking at a May 4 event headlined by white nationalist Stew Peters and censured Arizona State Sen. Wendy Rogers. Moon has also received recent unwanted attention for her vocal and unwaning support of convicted rapist and former legislator Aaron von Ehlinger. After von Ehlinger was accused of rape, Moon testified to his “gentlemanly” manners during his ethics hearing, in an attempt to dismiss the charges against him.
Voters put off by Moon’s associations have yet another choice from a different region of the state. Former State Sen. Mary Souza has experience in the other chamber of the Idaho Legislature and served four terms before giving up her seat to run for Secretary of State. Souza hails from Washington and holds a nursing degree, and she formerly wrote a political column for a newspaper in North Idaho. Souza has also pursued the support of the more extreme wing of the Republican Party but has failed to gain traction with extremist figures like Bundy and the Idaho Freedom Foundation. She does enjoy more support from her legislative colleagues than Moon, including backing from Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder, Senator Peter Riggs, and Senator Lori Den Hartog (among many others). Souza has raised the least money at just over $140,000, including a $10,000 loan to her campaign.
Like many of the other races in Idaho this May, this race appears to be wide-open, and it will be another match up between a candidate with law enforcement support, McGrane, versus Moon and Souza and their more extremist ties to rule of law skeptics Bundy and McGeachin.