Idaho’s longtime AG loses big to Labrador; McGrane secures secretary of state nomination

·3 min read
Sarah A. Miller/smiller@idahostatesman.com

Idaho’s 20-year attorney general was ousted, while Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane took the secretary of state nomination after a close battle.

With all 44 counties reporting Wednesday morning, former congressman Raúl Labrador won the attorney general’s race with 51.6% of the votes, cruising past incumbent Lawrence Wasden, who secured 37.9% of the votes. Coeur d’Alene lawyer Art Macomber received 10.5%.

Labrador told the Idaho Statesman Tuesday that he expected his lead to grow throughout the night. Wasden had won five straight attorney general elections beginning in 2002. He’s in his 20th year in the role.

“We knew that the early voting in Ada County was going to be a little bit tighter, but we knew that we were doing really well in the rest of the state,” Labrador said. “So we feel fantastic about today. People want a change in the attorney general’s office.”

Labrador has been critical of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, led by Gov. Brad Little’s administration. After Little won Tuesday’s primary, Labrador said he’ll be able to work with the governor.

“The difference is he’s not going to have a ‘yes’ man in the attorney general’s office,” Labrador said.

In the secretary of state’s race, McGrane narrowly won among three Republican candidates to be Idaho’s top election official. McGrane opened a big lead on early results but State Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, climbed closer as votes trickled in.

McGrane received 43.1% of the votes in Tuesday’s Republican primary. Moon trailed in second with 41.4%, while Sen. Mary Souza, R-Coeur d’Alene, secured 15.5% of support.

“I feel great,” McGrane told the Statesman as results were coming in. “I feel like there’s a ton of support here. There’s not much more I could ask for.”

Elections a focal point in secretary of state race

Idaho Republican voters will determine whether they wanted Idaho’s top elections official to have believed Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election.

The three candidates vied to replace Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney, who didn’t run for reelection. McGrane will compete with Democratic candidate Shawn Keenan for a four-year term in the November general election.

Two of the three candidates, Moon and Souza, said they believe President Joe Biden lost the 2020 election. Only one, McGrane, said Biden was duly elected.

McGrane’s background as an attorney and the only candidate with prior experience in managing elections earned him an endorsement from Gov. Brad Little and three former Idaho governors: Butch Otter, Dirk Kempthorne, and Phil Batt. His top priorities are protecting state elections, protecting Idaho endowment lands and protecting conservative values.

Souza has been vocal in her distrust of the 2020 presidential election results throughout her campaign, calling it “death by a thousand cuts.” Part of her proposed solution to voter fraud is changing Idaho’s “antiquated” election laws, starting with the state’s voter ID requirements.

Moon, on the other hand, this year targeted Idaho’s affidavits system. In addition to election integrity, her platform promised to combat the “mismanagement” of federal land, which Moon said has weighed down the state’s economy.

3 Republicans face off in AG race

Election integrity in Idaho has also become a central focus in the statewide race to be attorney general.

Opponents have criticized Wasden for declining to join a Texas lawsuit to overturn election results in battleground states where Biden won. Wasden sought a sixth term.

He has also received criticism for what his challengers deemed a lack of opposition to Little’s COVID-19 regulations. Wasden has said all his decisions have been “centered on the rule of law.”

Attorney generals serve four-year terms. Labrador will go against Democratic candidate Steven Scanlin in the November general election.

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