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Idaho lt. governor launches primary bid against GOP governor

Idaho lt. governor launches primary bid against GOP governor

Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin will challenge Gov. Brad Little in next year’s Republican primary after the two top officials spent more than a year battling over emergency declarations and coronavirus lockdowns during the pandemic.

The Idaho Falls businesswoman, who owns an Irish pub and an auto parts company, railed against the lockdowns Little imposed last year. She appeared at rallies against orders shuttering nonessential businesses, vowed to disobey the orders in her own businesses and appeared in a video in which other speakers questioned whether the pandemic was even real.

At one point she posted a photo of herself driving a truck draped with an American flag while she held both a gun and a Bible.

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“Alarmingly, Idaho has been drifting away from our foundational principles. Last year, our governor declared that some of your businesses and your employees were nonessential,” McGeachin said Wednesday, announcing her campaign at an event in Idaho Falls. “I’m here to tell you that every life is essential and every job is essential.”

Her stump speech centered largely around her objections to the coronavirus restrictions Little put in place.

“Why could we go to the liquor store but we couldn’t go to church?” she asked. “What is happening to our state? Idahoans have witnessed serious, egregious violations over the last year.”

McGeachin, 58, is the first woman to serve as Idaho’s lieutenant governor, and she would be the first woman to serve as governor if she beats Little and wins the general election.

She is the fifth Republican to enter the race against Little, who served as lieutenant governor himself for eight years before ascending to the state’s top job.

Little, 67, narrowly outpaced then-Rep. Raúl Labrador and businessman Tommy Ahlquist in the Republican primary three years ago. He has governed as a conservative; this year he signed legislation banning transgender girls from playing in girls’ sports leagues and bills curbing property taxes.

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Last week he signed a bill barring state law enforcement officers from enforcing federal laws on firearms that conflicted with the Idaho Constitution.

But he has constantly fought with the Republican-dominated legislature, especially as the pandemic shuttered businesses. Earlier this year he vetoed measures that would have curbed a future governor’s emergency powers.

The winner of the June 2022 Republican primary is almost certain to win the governorship in the fall. Idaho has not elected a Democratic governor since Cecil Andrus won reelection in 1990, and no Democratic candidate has won more than 44 percent of the vote in any subsequent election.