Ada County Clerk wins Republican nomination for Idaho secretary of state

Phil McGrane narrowly defeats House Rep. Dorothy Moon in primary election

By: - May 18, 2022 3:04 am
Phil McGrane

Idaho Secretary of State candidate Phil McGrane talks with a supporter during the Idaho Republican Party primary celebration on May 17, 2022. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

With most precincts reporting, Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane won the Republican primary nomination for Idaho secretary of state over Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, on Tuesday. 

Sen. Mary Souza, R-Coeur d’Alene, was in third place as of Tuesday night with about 15% of the total votes cast and 81% of precincts reporting.

The Idaho Secretary of State’s Office is an executive office responsible for administering state elections, licensing businesses, trademarks, notaries and other professions, and has various other duties related to official documentation. The secretary of state also serves on the State Board of Land Commissioners, also known as the Land Board, which is responsible for directing the management of more than 2.5 million acres of state endowment trust lands across the state. 

McGrane has been Ada County’s clerk since 2018, and unsuccessfully ran for secretary of state in 2014. As clerk, he directed the state’s largest absentee election in history in 2020, and said throughout the campaign that he was best positioned for the role of secretary of state because of his on-the-ground experience running elections. 

Moon and Souza could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Idaho Secretary of State Debate
Idaho GOP secretary of state candidates Phil McGrane, Mary Souza and Dorothy Moon participate in the Idaho Debates on Idaho Public Television on April 26, 2022. (Aaron Kuntz/Idaho Public Television)

McGrane was at the Idaho Republican Party’s official event at the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Boise, but said he hadn’t been following election results. It was the first time since 2005 that he was not involved in an election night in Ada County, he said. 

Regardless of the results, McGrane said he felt like he’d done everything he could to let voters know who he is and what he intends to do as secretary of state. 

“It’s a reflection of what, I hope, voters want,” he said. “I really do feel good about it. Not just in terms of whatever the outcomes are, but just feeling good about what I’ve done.”

Throughout the campaign, McGrane said he wanted to make voting in Idaho “convenient and secure,” and pointed to efforts such as early voting, which he instituted as clerk to improve voter access in Ada County. Early voting, he said, is one of the most secure forms of voting. 

McGrane grew up in southeast Boise and graduated from the University of Washington with a philosophy degree and traveled around the country working in various philanthropic roles.

In 2005, he applied for a job with the Ada County elections office. It was the first job in Ada County created by the Help America Vote Act, implementing upgrades to the election system after the presidential election in 2000.

After law school, McGrane returned to Boise to work as chief deputy clerk in Ada County until he was elected in 2018. He has also been chairman of the Elections Committee for the Idaho Association of Recorders and Clerks. 

McGrane will face Shawn Keenan, state committeeman of the Kootenai County Democrats in North Idaho, in the general election on Nov. 8. 

“Many will assume I am devastated to lose this election for Secretary of State,” Souza said in a written statement Wednesday morning. “No, as a wise person told me before my first campaign many years ago, you must be ready to win and also ready to lose, before you ever sign up to run.”

Souza said she “will be free of any restrictions, political or otherwise, and can openly share my opinions, observations, and stories. I look forward to it.”


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Kelcie Moseley-Morris
Kelcie Moseley-Morris

Kelcie Moseley-Morris is an award-winning journalist who has covered many topics across Idaho since 2011. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Idaho and a master’s degree in public administration from Boise State University. Moseley-Morris started her journalism career at the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, followed by the Lewiston Tribune and the Idaho Press.