BOISE – Former Idaho House Speaker Lawerence Denney, now a state representative from Midvale, launched his campaign for Idaho Secretary of State on Thursday, even as current GOP Secretary of State Ben Ysursa remained undecided about seeking another term.
Denney, a 65-year-old farmer, said he’s been “prayerfully considering this move for quite some time … and we have decided that now is the time.”
He served nine terms in the state House of Representatives, including three as speaker, before becoming the first Idaho House speaker to be ousted by his own caucus, when he was defeated last year by Rep. Scott Bedke, R-Oakley.
The secretary of state is Idaho’s top election regulator and has a seat on the Land Board, which oversees 2.5 million acres of state endowment land. The proceeds from the endowment land benefit Idaho public schools, prisons, mental hospitals and universities.
Denney said if elected, he’d work to stop the state Land Board from acquiring commercial property as part of the state endowment; address unspecified problems in Idaho elections that he said he’s heard about from people around the state; and oppose any move to a vote-by-mail system in Idaho.
“Sure, vote by mail is easier and it’s cheaper, but we cannot protect the integrity of the ballot,” he said.
Denney drew a couple of dozen supporters to his campaign launch in Boise, which he neither announced in advance to the press nor posted on his campaign website. He also made stops in Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls.
The secretary of state is responsible for some of the most closely watched websites in Idaho – the sites on which candidacies and election results are announced and campaign finance reports are posted amid firm deadlines. Asked about his qualifications for that aspect of the job, Denney said, “I don’t think the current Secretary of State does that either. I think he has a staff that does, and certainly I’m not going to make wholesale changes in the staff.” He said the staff does a good job.
Ysursa, who has served in the post since 2002 and had been former longtime Secretary of State Pete Cenarrusa’s chief deputy since 1974, said he remains uncertain about his political future. “I’ve been in agonizing internal deliberations for quite a while,” Ysursa, 64, told the Associated Press on Thursday.
If Denney were to serve one four-year term as secretary of state after his many years of legislative service, his state retirement pension would rise from roughly $500 a month to more than $3,600 a month.
The AP reported Thursday that two other Republicans also are considering the race: Former state Sen. Mitch Toryanski, R-Boise; and Phil McGrane, chief deputy county clerk in Ada County and a 32-year-old attorney. Both said they’d run only if Ysursa doesn’t.