"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

Pick a theory

idaho RANDY

The day after election day – any election day – people publicly and privately will offer up their theory as to why the results happened as they did. Usually, in truth, there’s no one single reason, but the dominant theory gives people some comfort: An easy explanation.

The Idaho secretary of state Republican primary is an especially juicy theory-fest. At this point, six weeks or so ahead of election day, the outcome is not at all clear, to the point you can make a credible argument for any of the four candidates to win. Usually an incumbent would be the likely winner, but here incumbent Ben Ysursa, holder of the job since 2002, is retiring. The Republican winner will oppose Democrat Holli Woodings in November.

The four: former house speaker and current representative Lawerence Denney; former state senators Evan Frasure and Mitch Toryanski; and Phil McGrane, deputy Ada County clerk.

Read the theories below and reflect that one, but only one, of them will look prescient on election day.

Denney is the best-known (by election day all will become better known), though many of his headlines have been negative. (Will voters remember those headlines, or just the name?) He does have a strong base of support, however, and many Tea Party members and allies may rally to him. His recent Duck Dynasty fundraiser will raise his visibility and identification with this sector. In a four-way primary, that could be enough for a win. And though he lost his bid for a fourth term as speaker in December 2012, he retains plenty of allies in the legislature and elsewhere.

Frasure is the only one of the four who has run statewide before – he lost the Republican primary for this same office in 2002 to Ysursa. Before that he was in the legislature quite a while, experienced in campaigning in difficult territory (Denney, though a long-time legislator, has been opposed only sporadically), and he is one of the best campaign organizers and strategists Idaho has seen in the last generation. He has played a big role in legislative redistricting for three decades now, and few people know the intricacies of Idaho voting patterns better. He is the only candidate from east of Boise, and more than 40 percent of Republican primary votes are cast in that region. (The other three contenders all come from southwest Idaho.)

Toryanski, a former deputy attorney general, has a base in Boise and has been thought likely to generate strong support from business interests and some of the mainstream Republican Party organizers, a core of backing that shouldn’t be lightly dismissed. Like Frasure, Toryanski has campaigned in difficult territory (southeast Boise), winning once and losing once, both fairly narrowly, and he did both in the last few election cycles.

Unlike the others, McGrane never has been elected to office, but he does have experience helping run the office – Ada County Clerk – that most resembles the secretary of state’s office. He also has an endorsement, nicely timed for delivery last week, from Ysursa. Most endorsements carry little weight, but this one may be more significant given Ysursa’s sterling reputation in the job not just since 2002 but also for decades before that as chief deputy secretary of state. He also, of course, has a strong endorsement from his current boss, Ada County Clerk Chris Rich, whose Republican activism goes back several decades, and on top of that one from former Governor Phil Batt.

What’s the winning theory for secretary of state? Take your pick: They’re all pretty good.

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