We soon will find out how much influence the Idaho Freedom Foundation has on statewide elections – and the level of support the conservative think tank has outside of the Statehouse basement.
Rep. Pricilla Giddings of White Bird is using her perfect voting record on IFF issues as a bragging point in her run for lieutenant governor. Rep. Dorothy Moon of Stanley, who is running for secretary of state, says her near-perfect record with the IFF (98 percent) is evidence that she is the only “proven” conservative in the race. One of her opponents (Sen. Mary Souza of Coeur d’Alene) has a failing grade on the IFF scorecard and her other opponent (Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane) does not have a voting record.
Being “the proven conservative” bodes well for Moon, especially with more than two candidates in the race. Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin billed herself as “the conservative candidate” in the Republican primary four years ago and prevailed over a crowded field of moderate candidates.
As Moon told me, her conservative values go beyond political scorecards.
“I represent rural Idaho and it has been the most rewarding six years of my life. I hold rural values close to my heart. Live and let live; get government out of the way and let me put my cattle out there; let me fix my water line; let me do what I need to do,” she said.
“These are tough people. I’ve lived off the grid since 2005 and I’ve seen fires in every direction from my cabin. I get it,” she said. What separates me from others is I’m conservative, and my record speaks to that.”
But she also acknowledges that as secretary of state, political labels – conservative vs. liberal – are not so relevant. She says her master’s degree in resource planning would be a good fit for the state Land Board. But her most high-profile responsibility would be to ensure that elections are run fairly and accurately – with uniform standards throughout the state.
“That’s what motivated me to get in the race,” said Moon, a former educator. And fair elections are something that everyone wants to see regardless of political affiliation.
“I do feel that I am the only real conservative in the race, but I’m fair and pragmatic,” she said. “This race is almost non-partisan. People want to know they are getting a fair shake from the secretary of state, and I would want that for everybody.”
Oddly, it has been Giddings – and not Moon – who has made most of the noise in the Legislature about election integrity. Giddings has introduced bills, backed by “liberty” legislators (including Moon) and pointed out that the conservative Heritage Foundation lists Idaho as 38th in election integrity. Moon was only vaguely familiar with that ranking when I talked with her.
Without doing a deep dive into the methodology, it’s not the kind of national ranking that Idahoans should like to see from a conservative organization. Georgia, which was at the center of controversy during the 2020 presidential election, was ranked first in integrity.
Moon, for one, disagrees with those who suggest that all is well with Idaho elections. She points to one situation in Teton County where a winner was announced on election night, without counting all the absentee votes – which flipped the results. Her website highlights a case in Meridian where a city council candidate lost by 56 votes. Absentee ballots were not sent out in random order.
“Did this affect the outcome of the election? We won’t know,” she said. “But we need to do more than say, ‘We’re sorry, that’s just what happens.’ We need to do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen.”
Election integrity is at the top of the list of all three candidates running to succeed the retiring Lawerence Denney. Souza also sees flaws in the election system and McGrane touts his experience with running elections in the state’s most populous county.
The race could come down to how Republican voters feel about the Idaho Freedom Foundation and its rankings. The lobby organization has had significant influence in legislative races over the last decade. Victories by Moon, Giddings, McGeachin, Raul Labrador (attorney general) and Branden Durst (state superintendent) would give the party’s libertarian wing a tight grip on the top levels of state government.
Ultimately, voters in the GOP primary will decide if that’s good, or bad.
ctmalloy@outlook. Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
(image/Idaho Capital Sun)