From a crowded field that includes veteran Republican politicians, we choose 33-year-old Phil McGrane in the Republican primary in the secretary of state's race.
As chief deputy to the Ada County clerk, he knows elections. His law degree, organizational skills and mission-focused instincts would serve him well as a representative on the Land Board.
Though there is a risk in endorsing someone who has never run for elected office, we take this risk with McGrane because of the transparency and forthrightness with which he has executed his duties in Idaho's largest county.
One of the few constants in Idaho state government over the past 50 years has been the fair and reliable service delivered by the office of the secretary of state.
Though there have been crises and criticisms during this time, there have been no catastrophes. In our minds the lack of drama has been a blessing and a beacon, and this has been achieved in large part due to the character of those serving in the office.
The late Pete Cenarrusa and the present occupant, Ben Ysursa, his successor, have managed to create an island of public service and fairness amid an ocean of politics. We believe that Idahoans appreciate this and that they will appreciate a candidate like McGrane, who is comfortable in an apolitical mode when it is time to get down to business. We hope voters will see in him what we have, and advance him to the Nov. 4 general election against Idaho Rep. Holli Woodings, D-Boise, who is leaving her legislative position after her first term. She is unopposed in the May 20 Democratic primary.
In the GOP race there is no shortage or variety of experience among the four candidates. Rep. Lawerence Denney, of Midvale, is a former Idaho speaker of the House. Former Idaho Sens. Mitch Toryanski, of Boise, and Evan Frasure, of Pocatello, know their way around the Legislature and have all kinds of statewide political ties.
Toryanski is a West Point graduate and Army veteran. Denney is also an Army veteran who earned a bronze star. Both Toryanski and McGrane are lawyers.
We wrestled with the merits of all this experience - especially the political experience - and decided that only small portions of it apply to the job as advertised: functioning as the top election regulator; holding a seat on the Land Board and overseeing some 2.5 million acres of state endowment land; and managing websites on candidates, campaign finance reports and election results.
We see McGrane's lack of political experience as a good thing. Though he and all of the candidates have their supporters, there seems to be less of a temptation to slip into cronyism or a partisan groove. Denney has had run-ins with his own party - ultimately resulting in losing his House speaker position. Though Frasure had some innovative ideas about tweaking the secretary of state's job and function, we thought it petty for him to refer to McGrane as a "kid" and "boy." Toryanski lost his re-election to the Senate - albeit in a tough district - after only one term.
Just as McGrane has never run for office before now, his opponents have never managed an election - as he has. McGrane points out that the winner of the primary/general election this year will be tasked with running an election next March.
If McGrane prevails in the primary and general election, he stands a chance of being a link to the past public service/nonpartisan reputation of Idaho's secretaries of state. But between now and then, he must navigate the very rough waters of politics to reach that apolitical island where the actual work awaits.