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Ada County clerk wins GOP primary for secretary of state

May 18, 2022 GMT

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The county clerk in Idaho’s largest county has won the GOP primary for secretary of state by defeating two candidates who denied former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election.

Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane defeated state Rep. Dorothy Moon and state Sen. Mary Souza in a race called Wednesday following voting in Tuesday’s primary.

McGrane had about 43% of the vote compared to just more than 41% for Moon and roughly 16% for Souza.

McGrane will be the heavy favorite in the deeply conservative state in the general election in November against Democrat Shawn Keenan, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Like many other primary contests, the race featured establishment Republicans against upstart far-right candidates. McGrane is part of the establishment and had the backing of Gov. Brad Little and former Govs. C.L. “Butch” Otter, Phil Batt and Dirk Kempthorne. He also had the support of former Secretary of State Ben Ysursa.

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McGrane said multiple factors likely contributed to his winning.

“You can see that it’s close,” he said on Wednesday shortly before an Idaho GOP unity rally on the Statehouse steps. “I think it’s a reflection of what’s going on in the state with the party. I’m very much a traditional Idaho Republican.”

The seat was open after two-term Republican Secretary of State Lawerence Denney opted not to seek reelection. Denney defeated McGrane in the Republican primary eight years ago.

Trump won Idaho in 2020 with 64% of the vote and still holds considerable sway in the state. He didn’t endorse anyone in the Idaho secretary of state’s race.

Denney in January sent MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell a cease-and-desist letter and a bill of more than $6,000 over the businessman’s repeated accusations of voter fraud in Idaho. Lindell on his website had said that all 44 Idaho counties participated in election fraud in 2020. In response to Lindell’s widely circulated document, the Idaho government conducted an election audit and determined Lindell was lying.

Still, both Moon and Souza earlier this year when the Legislature was in session cited election integrity concerns when they sought election changes that were ultimately rejected by fellow lawmakers.

Moon during one debate on the House floor said, without evidence, that Canadians were coming into Idaho to vote in Idaho elections.

The secretary of state, besides being the state’s top election official, sits on the Idaho Land Board, which manages 3,900 square miles (10,000 square kilometers) of state-owned land that makes money mainly for public schools.