By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports
Roughly 100 people crowded around the statehouse steps on Wednesday afternoon as Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin announced her plans to run for governor.
McGeachin will challenge Gov. Brad Little in the next primary after the two had publicly conflicting views on the best way to handle the coronavirus pandemic. She also publicly supported bills to restrict the executive branch’s powers in emergency situations.
Rep. Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton, introduced McGeachin in Boise.
As her speech began, supporters waved flags and cheered her on in a peaceful crowd. Several armed men stood nearby, seemingly in support of McGeachin as she spoke.
“Everything that makes Idaho great is under assault,” McGeachin said at her announcement.
She argued that under the state’s COVID-19 restrictions, voting rights and religious rights were violated. She criticized Little’s handling of the pandemic, saying his decisions created anger and divisiveness, calling it “unacceptable.”
In March, McGeachin attended a mask burning protest outside the capitol, according to the Associated Press.
“Idahoans have witnessed serious, egregious violations this year,” she said Wednesday morning.
Churches and other places of worship weren’t considered essential during the initial stay-at-home order in March 2020, and many halted in-person services during that time. Places of worship were permitted to reopen in Stage 1 of the state plan. Some areas did have limits on group size and some places of worship voluntarily closed temporarily, offering online or outdoor distanced services.
The May 2020 election was an absentee ballot only, but voting did occur. The decision to use absentee ballots only was a collective decision between the governor, the secretary of state, and discussions with county clerks. County clerks had expressed concern about being able to have enough poll workers during a pandemic to man the voting locations. The decision to use only absentee ballots was made without legislative approval.
Statewide in May 2020, 334,713 ballots were cast, which is about 38% of registered voters.
The Secretary of State’s Office said at the time that there was no evidence of voter fraud.
For comparison, in May of 2016, only 176,806 ballots were cast, which is about 23% of registered voters.
McGeachin, an Idaho Falls business owner, served as a state representative from 2002-2012 before running for lieutenant governor. She supports term limits, and has publicly said that’s why she did not run again in the House.
“It was Donald Trump’s campaign that inspired me to get back into politics,” McGeachin said Wednesday about her decision to run for lieutenant governor.
McGeachin stressed that if she is governor, she would urge caution around accepting some pandemic relief funds. She characterized some of the funding as a “bribe” by the federal government to get states to comply.
In addition to Little and McGeachin, other candidates for the governor’s race include Lisa Marie, Edward Humphreys, John Dionne, Cody Usabel and Jeff Cotton.
Candidates for governor have until March 2022 to file for candidacy, so more candidates may register before the primary.
McGeachin narrowly won her seat as lieutenant governor after the May 2018 primary, when she garnered 28% of the vote in a race against four other Republicans.
She’s received recent support from some conservative legislators and spoke last week about the education task force she hopes to assemble to look for “indoctrination.” Her office has said the task force, co-chaired by Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, is aimed at protecting young people “from the scourge of critical race theory, socialism, communism, and Marxism.”
She spoke about critical race theory and the task force at a conservative legislator press conference on May 12.
McGeachin held campaign announcements in Idaho Falls, Boise, and Coeur d’Alene on Wednesday.