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McGrane: Idaho won't be the next California

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | October 20, 2023 1:07 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — Secretary of State Phil McGrane said he commonly hears from Idahoans worried the state is becoming the next California because of all the Californians moving here.

He made one thing perfectly clear Thursday: Forget about it.

“Gavin Newsom is not here shopping for a house,” he said, laughing, in reference to California's governor.

McGrane said nearly 70%of those who have recently moved to Idaho are affiliating as Republicans. In Kootenai County, 72% of new arrivals are registering as Republicans.

“The people coming in, yes, they’re Californians, probably one or two of you in the room, but they’re also what we often refer to as political refugees," he said.

McGrane was the keynote speaker during a Coeur d’Alene Regional Chamber luncheon at the Hagadone Event Center.

He delivered an engaging, 30-minute talk, “Beyond the Ballot: Civic Engagement, Integrity, and Outcomes” to about 200 people.

Idaho, he said, at one time had competitive politics between Democrats and Republicans. It even once had a Libertarian flavor, and was a land of ranchers and farmers.

“We’re seeing people come from bigger cities with different ideas,” he said, later adding, "It’s changing our politics.”

In the past decade, close races between candidates in Idaho have become fewer.

He displayed a map of the 2022 General Election that showed a wave of red, with a few splotches of blue in Idaho.

“If you didn’t know, Idaho is a Republican state. Surprise,” he said, as the crowd laughed.

He said Ada County is the final remaining stronghold for Idaho Democrats.

“I just think it's fascinating to see how things are changing as more people are moving into our state and the impact,” McGrane said.

Evan Koch, chair of the Kootenai County Democrats, attended the event and in a written statement, responded to some of what McGrane said.

"Secretary McGrane shared data to show that Republicans numbers are growing. But party affiliation does not tell the whole story. We all want good schools and libraries, quality higher education, clean water, managed growth, affordable housing," Koch wrote. "The list of common values is longer and bears little or no relationship to party affiliation. Democrats focus on those values that almost all of us care about."

McGrane said it’s important for the state to be a neutral source where voters can access information about candidates, registration, what’s on ballots and the election process.

“Not everyone is taking time to learn about civics and be engaged, so we need to help and lighten the load,” he said.

McGrane cited the state’s voteidaho.gov website as a place to improve voter education and create an active, engaged populace of political wonks.

“Most people go to the polls, they know who they’re voting for president, but as you get further down they don’t always know who those candidates are,” McGrane said.

In a quick look at campaign contributions as of Oct. 10, McGrane said most local candidates are receiving donations from local residents, with some outside money coming in.

“You’ll notice it’s not just Idaho,” he said. “We’ve got donations coming from all over the United States in our elections.”

He noted that candidates in the Boise mayor’s race have generated more than half a million dollars in campaign contributions.

“There are people in Louisiana who apparently care about the Boise mayor’s race,” he said, smiling.

McGrane said voting in the primaries is gaining more importance with the lack of political diversity.

“The primaries are determining the overwhelming majority of races before we even get to vote in November," he said.

He said in Idaho, women consistently outvote men and older voters outvote young voters.

In bit of fun, McGrane asked the crowd for what they thought was the most common first name of Idaho voters.

John, Sarah, Michael and Karen were shouted out.

All wrong.

The answer was Doris.

"Was no one listening when I said women outvote men and older people outvote younger people?" McGrane asked. "Usually it's a competition between Betsy, Doris or Phyllis."

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BILL BULEY/Press

The crowd listens to Secretary of State Phil McGrane during a Coeur d'Alene Regional Chamber luncheon at the Hagadone Event Center on Thursday.

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BILL BULEY/Press

Idaho Secretary of State Phil McGrane speaks during the Coeur d'Alene Regional Chamber luncheon at the Hagadone Event Center on Thursday.