By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports
After a political uproar on Tuesday, former Gov. Butch Otter weighed in on Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s inquiries about sending the Idaho National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border.
While Gov. Brad Little left the state to visit the border and McGeachin was serving as acting governor, she issued an executive order banning vaccine passports and mandatory testing. She also reached out to leadership in the Idaho National Guard about potentially deploying troops to the border.
Major General Michael J. Garshak responded to McGeachin, saying he was “unaware of any request for Idaho National Guard assistance,” pointing to a letter from the governors of Texas and Arizona that requested help specifically from law enforcement agencies.
Otter’s statement was issued Wednesday afternoon, calling McGeachin’s actions “shameful.”
“One of the most significant duties of a Governor is to serve as Commander in Chief of the Idaho National Guard. Decisions about deploying our brave men and women of the Guard must be considered with great weight and never with self gain at the forefront,” Otter said in the written statement sent to Idaho Reports. “The Lt. Governor’s failed attempt to deploy the Idaho National Guard to the southern border while Governor Little is out of state performing his duties as Governor reveals her ignorance of the process and her true intentions – she seeks only to advance her personal political agenda, even if it means putting the safety of our Guardsmen on the line and burdening their families while they are deployed.
“This is not the way a Governor acts. I attended the funerals of many of our warfighters and saw the grief in their families’ faces. The Lt. Governor belittles and demeans their sacrifice by playing political games with the men and women of the Idaho National Guard and their families. It is shameful and unacceptable.”
Otter, a Republican, served as lieutenant governor from 1987 to 2001 under three governors: Cecil Andrus, Phil Batt, and Dirk Kempthorne. In 1987, as acting governor while Democrat Andrus was out of town, Otter vetoed a piece of legislation that would have raised Idaho’s drinking age from 19 to 21, but there was one key difference: He didn’t blindside Andrus with the move.
Little rescinded any action McGeachin took while he was out of state. In his repeal, he wrote “The Founders of our Constitution did not permit, nor would they now sanction, a lieutenant governor’s actions to subvert or supplant the policies of an otherwise capable, qualified, and duly elected governor.”
McGeachin is running for governor in 2022, and will challenge Little in the upcoming primary race.
Other politicians have weighed in on the dispute between Little and McGeachin, which has gained national attention.
Idaho U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson called it a distraction and House Speaker Scott Bedke called it “a complete grandstand and abuse of her political office.”
On Thursday morning, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox issued a Tweet that indirectly referenced the Idaho dispute, saying he has “the best Lt. Governor in the country.”
Amid the slew of criticism, McGeachin issued a tweet clarifying what her intent was with the National Guard.
McGeachin’s office has not returned requests for comment from Idaho Reports.
Melissa Davlin contributed to this report.