Our View: Learn from Ysursa before he leaves

November 12, 2013 

cenarrusa, st. john's, funeral

Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, shown Oct. 4 at the funeral service for Pete Cenarrusa, said he won't seek a fourth term.

KATHERINE JONES — kjones@idahostatesman.com Buy Photo

We are sending out an SOS about the Idaho secretary of state’s office. The eventual departure of Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, who announced his 2015 retirement Friday, could create a breach in the lineage of integrity of that position that stretches back for well more than a half-century.

The previous occupants — the late and much revered Pete Cenarrusa, who died last month, and Edson Deal (who died in office in 1967), who made the controversial decision to rehire the staff of his Democrat predecessor — never considered it a partisan bully pulpit. They set a standard that Ysursa, Cenarrusa’s longtime election chief, has upheld since 2002 when he was elected to the position.

We think the people who believe they can fill the shoes of secretary of state should take full advantage of the next 13 months by taking notes on the way Ysursa goes about the job. When he leaves office a year from January, we hope his successor will have studied Ysursa’s knack for providing service in lieu of partisanship, fairness instead of favoritism.

This isn’t just our view. Ysursa is respected by the majority of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. That’s because he has managed the delicate issues of campaign finance and running elections with professionalism instead of politics. He has served Idaho on the Land Board with a long-term eye during frequent storms of shortsightedness.

Among the rare criticisms we have heard regarding Ysursa are that, at times, he is too impartial toward his own Republican Party — which is precisely the impartial posture he should have.

Jim Weatherby, an emeritus professor at Boise State University, articulated our concern about successors in Dan Popkey’s story Saturday about Ysursa’s announcement: “I think it should be noted that there could be a more partisan person elected,” Weatherby said. “Deal, Cenarrusa, Ysursa — they were all nonpartisan and even-handed.”

We will be watching closely as candidates join Lawerence Denney, a Republican legislator and former speaker of the House, who announced his intention to run for the secretary of state office last month.

We’re just a few short months from the May 20 primary and less than a year away from the general election. That gives candidates plenty of time to begin forming plans to emulate those who came before.

We hope they, and the electorate, get it right.

“Our View” is the editorial position of the Idaho Statesman. It is an unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman’s editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email editorial@idahostatesman.com.

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service