Idaho Governor Beats Back Challenge From Trump-Endorsed Lt. Guv. McGeachin

McGeachin has connections to the militia movement, and has the meddlesome habit of trying to undermine Governor Little's policies whenever he leaves the state.
Idaho's Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin speaks at a GOP campaign event at a Fire Department on March 19, 2022 in Shelly, Idaho. (Photo by Natalie Behring/Getty Images)

Idaho’s governor Brad Little on Tuesday night easily beat back a far-right challenge in the Republican primary from his own lieutenant governor, Janice McGeachin.

McGeachin, who earned Trump’s endorsement to be Idaho’s next governor, has for years made a show of undermining Little’s authority. (In Idaho, the governor and lieutenant governor run on separate tickets.)

The Associated Press called the race less than 90 minutes after polls closed in Idaho. Little, at that time, had a significant lead, with 61.8 percent of the vote to McGeachin’s 24.4 percent. The AP estimated that 31.7 percent of the vote had been counted.

The bitter primary fight was just the latest turn in a long-running fraught relationship between the two executive branch officials.

On several occasions when Little was out-of-state or otherwise not performing the duties of the governor’s office, McGeachin used her temporary powers to wage an Idahoan culture war, including by issuing an executive order against workplace vaccine requirements. That same day, McGeachin attempted to invoke her temporary powers to send Idaho’s National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. A few months prior, in May, McGeachin banned mask mandates — an order that Little quickly reversed once he was back home.

Idaho Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin speaks during a mask burning event at the Idaho Statehouse on March 6, 2021 in Boise, Idaho. Citizens and politicians gathered in at least 20 cities across the state to protest COVID-19 restrictions. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

McGeachin has found other ways to court right-wing stardom. As lieutenant governor, McGeachin convened an “indoctrination” task force to make a show of responding to the “Critical Race Theory” crisis supposedly plaguing Idaho’s public schools. One participant, then president-elect of the Idaho School Boards Association, resigned from the task force after a couple months, writing that the effort “seems to have more to do with partisan campaigning than it does with approaching a sensitive topic with respect, care, and the involvement of all voices at the table.” 

White supremacists in the state have bragged of their connections to McGeachin, and she hasn’t done much to discourage the association: In March, McGeachin joined several other high-profile Republicans in addressing the white nationalist “America First Political Action Conference.” 

“I need freedom fighters… even when that means fighting amongst our own ranks because too many Republicans don’t exhibit the courage today,” she told the conference in pre-recorded video. In the uproar that followed, McGeachin made sure to clarify: “Yes, I did know who I was talking to.”

Even before that explicit show of allegiance to the racist right, McGeachin has spent years courting the state’s anti-government militia groups: In 2019 — again as “acting” governor — she administered an oath to the right-wing militia group “Real Three Percent of Idaho.” A few months prior, she’d posed for a picture with supporters of Todd Engle, who was then behind bars  for his role in the 2014 stand-off at Cliven Bundy’s ranch. 

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