Denney rebuttal: Secretary of state must press for needed changes


May 4, 2014 

There's only about one thing the Statesman got right in its endorsement editorial: The Secretary of State's Office has been well-run and impartial for decades. Strangely, though, the paper discounted the role of its staff in that superb performance.

We can all agree the Idaho Secretary of State's Office itself needs little change in its operations and vision, and when I am elected, my goal will be to ensure its dedicated, experienced staff continues doing what it has always done under previous leadership. And I know a thing or two about elections, having had my name on the ballot 13 times in my life and having served over 20 years in the Idaho Legislature.

It's not entirely true the SOS job is apolitical. When it comes to administering and overseeing elections, business filings and similar duties, the office must be and has been apolitical, impartial and focused on professional public service.

But the SOS has another important function: serving as a member of the Land Board, a position that requires knowledge of state budgeting, education, local government, natural resource use, outdoor recreation and other areas that I know very well and better than any of my opponents.

Unlike running the SOS office, the Land Board position requires very broad competence in statewide issues and the ability to work with - or stand up to - other elected officials. The Land Board requires someone who can, when necessary, fight for the right thing and deal with resistance.

The Statesman glossed over the pressures that come to bear on people at that level. Phil McGrane has been a good public servant and has a bright future ahead of him, but he doesn't have the experience in state government cooperating with others, fighting with others and ultimately crafting policies that are constitutional and right.

It is totally wrong for the state of Idaho to be in competition with the private sector by owning rental units, residential property, general commercial properties and a Downtown Boise building rented to a brewpub. In approving these things, the Land Board has strayed far from its mandate and needs to be brought back. This will require standing up to, and pressing for change with, entrenched interests and cronyistic leadership.

I seriously question whether any of my opponents has the grit and tenacity to press for needed changes at the Land Board. It won't be easy. My opponents have not been seriously tested at a high level like this. I have - sometimes I have prevailed and sometimes not, but I have demonstrated the qualities needed and none of my opponents have.

What the Statesman views as a disadvantage - my being voted out as speaker of the House - shows that I am independent and willing to take on entrenched interests within my own party. One cannot simultaneously claim I am excessively partisan and at the same time criticize my willingness to upset the apple cart in my own party. The SOS position needs someone who is knowledgeable about public policy and elections and willing to let its competent staff continue, but who is also willing to openly stand up for what is right and take on bad policies at the Land Board.

Rep. Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, is a GOP candidate for Idaho secretary of state and is running in the May 20 primary. The Statesman endorsement of Phil McGrane ran on April 27.

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