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Lt. Gov. McGeachin Spars With Top Senate Republican Over Chamber Access

Janice McGeachin smiles while speaking into a microphone in front of a crowd of supporters
Otto Kitsinger
Idaho Lt. Gov.-elect Janice McGeachin gives her victory speech in Boise, Idaho, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.

A lawyer for Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin is accusing the state's top Senate Republican of political punishment and sexism due to disputes over her budget and lack of keycard access to the senate chamber.

Boise State Public Radio obtained a letter dated April 16 from Art Macomber, a Coeur d’Alene lawyer, to Senate Pro Tem Chuck Winder (R-Boise) through a public records request.

In it, Macomber said McGeachin’s lack of keycard access is “demeaning” and “dysfunctional” since she “cannot prepare to be President for scheduled Senate floor matters” without it.

In Idaho, the lieutenant governor presides over the Senate as its president. She typically acts as a procedural figurehead, but can cast a vote to break a tie if needed.

“Given the lack of security concerns, it appears the Senate cannot abide a female Lieutenant Governor,” he wrote.

McGeachin has her own office space one floor below the senate chamber at the Idaho Capitol.

Macomber,who’s currently running for attorney general and undertooka failed bid for a state legislative seat in 2016, went on to suggest that “locking the President of the Senate out of access to the Senate floor is retaliation for contracting with people with whom the Senate disapproves.”

Earlier this year,the budget writing Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee questioned McGeachin contracting with Parrish Miller, an analyst for the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a libertarian lobbying group.

McGeachin’s legislative allies shot down multiple versions of her budget that sought to cut an open staff position in her office.

“Such retaliation is beneath the dignity of your office,” Macomber wrote.

All of these factors, he wrote, “appear to be nothing but political punishment for perceived slights, unless they are overt discrimination against our first female Lieutenant Governor.”

He then asked to schedule a meeting to further discuss her budget, while saying he’s sure Winder would want to avoid the perception of this alleged feud being “a good example of how adults work together to address political issues in the State of Idaho.”

Winder wrote back directly to McGeachin on April 21, saying in his experience, “adults set a good example when they calmly, directly address concerns they may have with other persons.”

“They do not ‘lawyer up’ and direct their counsel to send letters that they might not send themselves,” Winder wrote.

He said McGeachin isn’t being treated differently when it comes to keycard access. Former Senate Pro Tem Brent Hill, Winder said, didn’t provide Gov. Brad Little keycard access for the ten years he was lieutenant governor.

“Mr. Macomber’s suggestion that you are not receiving a key card because of your gender is offensive to me,” he said.

He also took offense at the suggestion he was retaliating against her due to her choice of contracted employees, calling it “baseless.”

“As Pro Tem, I have no more say over your employees or budget than any other Senator,” Winder wrote.

A fully restored budget for the lieutenant governor’s office totaling $183,100 passed the House Tuesday afternoon.

It’s unclear if the two eventually met. Neither McGeachin’s office, nor did Winder immediately respond to a request for comment.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!

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