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Eye On Boise

Ysursa on advice to Denney: ‘Folks will be watching’

Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa addresses the City Club of Boise (Betsy Russell)
Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa addresses the City Club of Boise (Betsy Russell)

Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, who accepted the 2014 Dottie & Ed Stimpson Award for Civic Engagement from the City Club of Boise today, asked what advice he has for incoming Secretary of State-elect Lawerence Denney. “We chatted, he’s called,” Ysursa said. “I like to be here and get awards and all this and that’s great, but the staff is what does all the work. … I think the key part is keep as many of the staff as possible, and he is going to do that.” Ysursa noted that Denney is planning to keep his current chief deputy, Tim Hurst, and the staff.

“My advice to him is stay the course,” Ysursa said, when it comes to elections. “I do have a lot of advice on the Land Board, and the federal takeover and all that: Folks, it ain’t gonna happen. … It’s a legal non-starter, and you can take that to the bank.”

Ysursa said, “The other concept is that lots of folks will be watching. Some of us fear the worst, I don’t. I don’t think there’ll be a lot of major changes. If there are, there’ll be people coming out of the woodwork and I’ll be one of ‘em.”

He said, “We need to pass legislation that will improve voter turnout or some way improve us getting into the political process. We don’t need to be exclusionary. Anything that goes that route I will oppose, and other people will too.” He added, “Folks will be watching. An informed citizenry is the ultimate repository of the public will.”

Interestingly, in bestowing the award, the City Club cited three examples of Ysursa’s “dedication to openness and accessibility” in his long career as Idaho’s chief elections officer or chief deputy. Two of the three, when Ysursa defended the independence of the state’s citizen redistricting commission in court against then-House Speaker Denney’s attempt to fire an appointee, and when he unsuccessfully defended the state’s open primary law in court, were cases in which Denney was on the other side.

The third example was Ysursa’s successful legal fight to make a secretive campaign group reveal its donors in the 2012 “Students Come First” referendum campaign; the group, which presented itself as a group of Idaho parents, turned out to be financed by out-of-state millionaires including then-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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