Thursday, June 08, 2023

Houck touts experience for top elections job

by Chuck Malloy
| December 13, 2021 12:47 PM

If you are worried about foreign hacking into Idaho elections, or integrity of elections in general, then you might take comfort in having a secretary of state who has a master’s degree in homeland security and is well versed in cybersecurity.

Chad Houck, who is looking to replace retiring Secretary of State Lawerence Denney, has those credentials and the title of “chief deputy” to boot. And as with other Republican candidates running for secretary of state in next year’s primary, Houck says concerns about outside interference in elections are real.

“If they are not interfering, they are at least trying and we have to stop it,” Houck says. “I am the only candidate who, in all aspects, is ready to step into the job on Day One. I have been involved in every court case, every land board debate, every board meeting and every aspect of what we do in the office – from the corporate division to the government services side, to budget preparation and the elections side.”

The question is whether there is enough “politician” in him to win a primary election.

“I’m not a known commodity, or a name in Idaho politics,” he says. “I’ve been the name behind the name for the last couple of years, and that’s a hard place to come from. Also, the secretary is not going to make an endorsement in the race, because of his long-standing policy against endorsing candidates.”

Former longtime Secretary of State Ben Ysursa has weighed in on the race, endorsing Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane for the office. Two other candidates, Sen. Mary Souza of Coeur d’Alene and Rep. Dorothy Moon of Stanley, have been through plenty of political wars in the Legislature, and have support from their colleagues.

Houck says he’s not a politician, but with this field of candidates, he needs to do what politicians do best – sell himself to the voters. And it may not be enough to simply say that everything is hunky-dory with Idaho elections. With at least a good number of Republicans, the “big lie” – that Donald Trump won the last presidential election – is the ultimate truth.

“It’s easy to produce political theater, and especially as divided as the nation is right now. It’s easy to put out speculation, and much harder to refute it because it looks like you are being defensive,” he said.

“I’ve heard people say that we need to get back to paper ballots. Well, Idaho has never left from paper ballots. I’ve heard folks say we need to have watermark ballots. Idaho ballots already are marked to prevent duplication. Those are standards that should be applied nationally. Idaho is doing it and has been doing it, which makes Idaho a model that others should follow,” he said. “Getting that picture out in the current climate is very difficult. We’re trying to educate people about why they should trust their ballot in Idaho. Mix-ups still occur occasionally, but the structure is good here and the right policies are in place.”

As with other candidates, Houck opposes following Washington and Oregon’s lead with mail-in ballots. Idaho had swarms of absentee ballots during the last election cycle, which according to Houck came at a high cost. Some clerks retired after the 2020 elections.

“It burned out their team. Idaho elections were not built to run that way,” Houck said. “In Idaho, it’s not a mail-in process, it’s a paper-ballot process. The easier you make it to get that ballot, the more security issues you are going to need for that process.”

Although Houck is not the incumbent, he believes he has a record of accomplishments with the office. Throughout this campaign, he will be talking about his experience as chief deputy and the relationships developed on the staff and policy levels.

“I hope voters can see through the political drama, the political façade and the professional politicians,” he said.

Houck certainly has qualifications for the job. But in a political campaign, the candidate with the strongest resume doesn’t always win.

Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at

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