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Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin Seeks To Topple Little In Governor's Race

Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, right, shortly before greeting a crowd on the steps of the Idaho Capitol in Boise as she announces her bid for governor in 2022.
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, right, shortly before greeting a crowd on the steps of the Idaho Capitol in Boise as she announces her bid for governor in 2022.

Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, one of the most prominent right-wing Republicans in the state, is launching her bid to become Idaho’s next governor.

“Everything that makes Idaho great is under assault and with radical leftists now controlling Congress and the White House, your governor must be on the front lines of defense every day defending our individual liberties, our state sovereignty and our traditional conservative values,” McGeachin said.

“Anything less is dereliction of duty.”

McGeachin made the announcement Wednesday morning in Idaho Falls, her hometown.

The race sets up what could be the most prominent showdown between the ascendant far-right and the establishment factions of the state GOP in the 2022 election cycle.

Unlike the presidential race, the governor and lieutenant governor of Idaho don’t run combined campaigns and aren’t always politically aligned.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Brad Little said he does not have a campaign team in place at this time.

McGeachin has repeatedly clashed with Little over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic by supporting business owners who weren’t authorized to reopen at the time under his reopening plan.

At one point last May, Little said he and McGeachin hadn’t spoken in weeks.

“Many stood strong in the face of challenges,” she said of last year’s pandemic — a word she never used in her 25-minute speech.

“Unfortunately, some were entrusted with positions of leadership [and they] caved to fear and compromised principles.”

McGeachin attended a mask burning rally on the steps of the Idaho Capitol earlier this year and previously called for ending Idaho’s emergency declaration related to the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s despite the fact that doing so wouldn’t affect local mask mandates or gathering restrictions that were previously in place and would’ve jeopardized millions in federal relief money, according to state officials.

If elected, she said, “My door will remain unlocked and open to the public. You certainly will not be required to wear a mask to enter.”

McGeachin also has ties to a militia group and openly supported Todd Engel, an Idaho man sentenced to 14 years in prison for his involvement with a 2014 standoff at a Nevada ranch between federal agents and militia members.

Last August,the 9thCircuit Court of Appeals vacated Engel’s conviction and ordered a new trial.

McGeachin won a five-way primary race in 2018 by 2,800 votes before cruising into office comfortably over her Democratic challenger, Kristin Collum. Before that, she served as a state representative from 2002-2012 and is involved with several local GOP groups.

She’s rankled other lawmakers at times, including a recent spat with Senate Pro Tem Chuck Winder (R-Boise) where a lawyer she hired accused him of sexism for not giving her key card access to the Senate chamber where she presides as president.

Winder replied directly to McGeachin, saying Little also didn’t have key 24-hour access to the chamber for the 10 years he was lieutenant governor.

She and her husband Jim own multiple automotive businesses in Idaho Falls and Boise, according to her website. Her family also owns and operates a pub and grill in Idaho Falls.

McGeachin pointed to the United States’ $28 trillion debt as threatening to knock off the dollar as the gold standard international currency, something she said Idaho could help reduce.

“We can’t solve all of our nation’s financial woes here in Idaho, but we must do our part to get our fiscal house in order, even if it means weaning ourselves off the federal teat.”

Over the weekend, Ed Humphries, a financial advisor from Eagle, officially launched his campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Three others, Jeff Cotton and Lisa Marie from Boise and Cody Usabel Meridian, have also filed paperwork with the secretary of state’s office to appoint a treasurer for a GOP gubernatorial run.

No Democrat has filed yet, though John Dionne from Boise filed to run for governor while not being affiliated with any political party.

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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