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Idaho’s new Secretary of State-elect visits Morning Edition

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Phil McGrane, Secretary of State's Office
Phil McGrane was elected to be Idaho's next Secretary of State on November 8, 2022

Idaho Republicans had their own red wave at the top of the 2022 general election ballot.

Each of the GOP candidates emerged victorious in their respective races for statewide office, but it was Phil McGrane who secured the highest percentage of votes in his race for Secretary of State – 72 percent.

“I was a little shocked myself to hit 400,000 votes,” said McGrane. “But it feels great.”

Idaho’s new Secretary of State-elect visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about his path to victory, the essential nature of election integrity, and his hopes for a statewide voter’s guide.

“I’m an election junkie, through and through. And so, this is a very good fit for me.”

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. Well, this week's election results revealed a pretty good night for Idaho Republicans in statewide contests. Governor Brad Little got about 60% of the vote to be reelected. Scott Bedke was elected to be Idaho's next lieutenant governor. Raul Labrador won the race to be state attorney general. Debbie Critchfield won the race to determine Idaho's next superintendent of public instruction and Controller Brandon Wolf and state Treasurer Julie Ellsworth won reelection. The statewide candidate who got the biggest share of the vote in any of the state contests was Phil McGrane. He secured about 72% of the vote. And here he is, Mr. Secretary of State elect. Good morning.

PHIL MCGRANE: Good morning, George.

PRENTICE: Walk me through election night and that experience.

MCGRANE: You know, it's always interesting for me, you know this about me. And clearly it fits with my pursuit for the role of secretary of state is I'm an elections junkie. And so I was kind of wearing two hats. I was a candidate, as we're discussing here. But also I was helping make sure the election itself ran smoothly. And so at times I was bouncing between the two roles, making sure things were going okay at the polls throughout the day, having some opportunity to celebrate with the other candidates and my supporters and family and friends, and then even to the very end, making sure that all the ballots are counted and all the results were reported. I was up till about 3 a.m. coordinating with my team here at Ada County, and it was a great election both in terms of how the election ran, but obviously for me personally. You mentioned the total results and I was a little shocked myself to hit 400,000 votes, but it feels great.

PRENTICE: How did you win? What would you what will you tell people who want to follow in your footsteps? How do you put together such a successful campaign?

MCGRANE: That's a great question. You know, here in Idaho, this is no surprise to you or your listeners. Certainly, the primaries are really big part of our state, especially being such a Republican state. You saw that in terms of the results yesterday. It took a lot of work. I think the shocking thing in this cycle and it's not just my race, but you can look at a lot of those statewide races that you mentioned is just how long we had run. I got an early start. It actually was 606 days that I was running to become secretary of state. So it was certainly a long haul, a lot of work. And the fundraising this cycle too, was a really big thing. And so I just think it was a collective effort. I had a great team of friends who were willing to put in a lot of hours to support me through this race and the role like Secretary of State, really, it is an impartial role in terms of being the chief election official and making sure our elections run smoothly. And I think when you look at the results, it's a reflection of the broad support that I've been able to build over the years as a county clerk and even before that, helping make sure our elections work smoothly. And thankfully, Idaho voters are entrusting me with this new role.

PRENTICE: Well, you know this as well as anyone, and that is that Ada County, in particular, Idaho in general, time and again comes through these elections with a great reputation. That said, I'm guessing, well, I'm going to ask what what you thought of this poll from the Idaho Statesman that they printed recently that said nearly one in three Idaho adults believe the conspiracy theory that widespread voter fraud took place in the 2020 US election.

MCGRANE: You know, I think one of the biggest things is a lot of it is just from what people are seeing nationally. I think when I traveled around the state, I got to meet with voters in every corner of the state. People really do have confidence in their local elections. I heard that time and time again. You mentioned it here in Ada County. I think we have very good support from the community and people do have confidence that when they drop their ballot in the ballot box, their vote counts. But as they see things nationally and I think we saw that play out in some of the what was being reported yesterday, it's so far removed and it's it's tough for people in Philadelphia to relate to people here in rural parts of Idaho and vice versa. And so I think right now, one of the biggest tasks for me, whether it's as a county clerk or the incoming secretary of state, is to bolster confidence in elections not just locally, but trying to rebuild confidence nationally as well. Many of the practices that we do here are done in many other states. And being transparent and being open about what we're doing is a key part of that. I think one of the big successes from yesterday was we had a record number of poll watchers out at the polls here locally, and it really went smoothly. Ammon Bundy had 46 poll watchers, and I talked to lots of people who were nervous or concerned about that. But I want to give him and his team credit because it didn't disrupt the process. I think it opened their eyes to how things work. And I think that's a good thing, because when people get to see it that closely, they can see how well our system works.

PRENTICE: Indeed, these are interesting times for the people in your profession.

MCGRANE: I certainly put my hat in the ring to take on this task no matter what comes. I've spent my entire career working in elections and making sure that people have the opportunity to vote and that the system works well. And I really look forward to continuing to do that in this new capacity. I've built a great rapport with the other clerks around the state, and I think we're collectively excited to work together to build on what we've got in this state. And I think there are some unique opportunities to that. Will both aid voters in terms of voting but also will will help in terms of building confidence in the process? And one of the goals I have is to hopefully implement a voter guide. It's something the surrounding states do, but Idaho doesn't do at this point in time, but it will help inform people when they're voting. We can put more information about how the process works and most importantly, inform voters as to what they're going to be voting on.

PRENTICE: So just paint me a word picture … something similar to what we may see locally? It would be a state voter guide?

MCGRANE: Yeah, we right now, we really don't have anything. The state issues a small pamphlet. Whenever there's a constitutional amendment or an initiative on the ballot. And every voter received one of those this year. But so often people don't know what they're going to be voting on locally. People head to the polls. They know who they're going to vote for president. They know who they're going to likely vote for governor. But when you start getting your legislative races, county races, things like CWI, which was on the ballot yesterday, often people are seeing it for the first time when they get their ballot. And if we can provide tools so they can actually do some independent research but have the resources to know who's going to be on their ballot, where they can look up more information about those people. I think it really has the opportunity to both get voters more engaged, but also help voters be more informed.

PRENTICE: At what point do you start…well heading over to the capital and start talking about transition?

MCGRANE: I'm happy to report. I have had lunch with Laurence Denny already yesterday, the day after the election, Lawrence and I sat down for lunch and I think, Wow. Yeah, I think that speaks volumes for both of us. Especially for those who know our history. Lawrence and I were once political opponents.

PRENTICE: In a primary, yes.

MCGRANE: Yeah. But we have a very good working relationship. I don't know that that's going to be quite as smooth of a transition for some of the others just because of their histories. But we've already begun talking about what this is going to look like, some of the changes that will be coming. We do look at it differently. Me having been on the ground level, but we've always had a really good working relationship. And I think over the next two months we're going to work closely together.

PRENTICE: I think anyone who knows you even remotely must. No. And probably has said that your roads led you to where you are today, right?

MCGRANE: Absolutely, yes. I'm an elections junkie through and through. And so this is a very good fit for me.

PRENTICE: To you and your family. Great. Good luck in the coming months and in your transition. Congratulations, Mr. Secretary-elect. And I'll have to get used to to saying that. But for now, Phil McGrane, thank you so very much for giving us some time this morning.

MCGRANE: Thank you, George.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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