Advocacy on the Move
McGeachin’s Political Gamesmanship Continues in Idaho
October 11, 2021
If you have been watching the news over this past week, you know there has been quite a potentially high-stakes political tennis match between Governor Brad Little and Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin – a seeming preview of how next year’s campaign for the Governor’s office could play out. The Executive Level squabble is focused on several politically sensitive areas that directly impact Idahoans as well as the current fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Governor Brad Little, who was originally scheduled to be with our credit unions at MAXX, was called away to join nine other governors in visiting the U.S.-Mexico border. While in Texas, the collection of governors obtained a joint briefing from the U.S. Board Patrol, Department of Homeland Security, and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) on issues surrounding the Haitian refugee settlement, illegal immigration, and the illegal drug trade.
Before leaving the state, Governor Little sent a letter to the Lt. Governor stating that he would be leaving Idaho, for a short period of time, but his physical absence from the State would not impair his ability to continue governing the State. The Lt. Governor requested an opinion from the Idaho Attorney General regarding the Governor’s legal capability to govern the state, while not being present in the borders of the state. The Attorney General’s office provided an opinion that narrowly supported Governor Little’s interpretive read of the Idaho Constitution, but provided several caveats and considerations that would need to be taken into account if they were asked to defend the position in court.
Once Governor Little left Idaho to fly to Texas, Lt. Governor McGeachin immediately positioned herself as acting Governor of Idaho and began taking executive level governmental actions. She signed executive orders, which included a change to Governor Little’s previous COVID-19 order. Through the revised order she attempted to ban the ability of the state, its agencies, and/or any businesses to require a vaccination “passport,” while also taking steps to block K-12 schools or universities from mandating any type of COVID-19 testing or vaccinations. Governor Little had previously banned the concept of vaccination passports, but McGeachin significantly expanded the order to include the new limitations.
This is the second time that the Lt. Governor has attempted to impact Idaho citizens and businesses through the use of Executive Orders, while Governor Little was out of the state. Previously, she signed an Executive Order and attempted to ban all mask mandates in the State of Idaho, whether those mandates were related to the pandemic or not. The Governor rescinded that Executive Order upon his return to the state as well.
Having learned about the actions taken by McGeachin, via a post on Twitter, Governor Little immediately took actions to rescind the orders put in place by the Lt. Governor. “I am in Texas performing my duties as the duly elected Governor of Idaho, and I have not authorized the Lt. Governor to act on my behalf,” Little said, “…I will be rescinding and reversing any actions taken by the Lt. Governor when I return.”
As Governor Little was on the U.S.-Mexico border, Lt. Governor McGeachin also inquired about the use and possible deployment of the Idaho National Guard from Adjutant General Michael Garshak. It appeared the Lt. Governor was considering deploying the Idaho National Guard to the Mexican border to provide additional personnel and resources for the states of Texas and Arizona. In an emailed response to the Lt. Governor, General Garshak stated, “I am unaware of any request for Idaho National Guard assistance under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) from Texas or Arizona,” Continuing he wrote, “As you are aware, the Idaho National Guard is not a law enforcement agency.”
In June, Governor Little sent a specialized group of Idaho State Police Troopers to the border to help with intelligence gathering, investigation, and drug smuggling enforcement.
With 13 months of campaigning before next November’s election, it’s certain there will be more of this type of political gamesmanship to come.
The NWCUA Advocacy Team will continue to closely monitor all of the upcoming races in order to inform our members of issues surrounding each race as well as positions taken in support of specific candidates, if any. The Idaho GAC has formally announced its support for Brad Little’s re-election bid to continue as Idaho’s Governor.