We're Building A Better Tri-State Together
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Idaho Gov. Brad Little wins GOP primary over Trump's pick, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin

Idaho Gov. Brad Little delivers his State of the State address inside the House Chambers at the state Capitol building, on Jan. 10, 2022, in Boise, Idaho.
Otto Kitsinger
/
AP
Idaho Gov. Brad Little delivers his State of the State address inside the House Chambers at the state Capitol building, on Jan. 10, 2022, in Boise, Idaho.

Updated May 18, 2022 at 12:30 AM ET

Gov. Brad Little has once again won the Republican primary for Idaho's highest office, according to a race call by The Associated Press.

Little, a longtime political figure, rancher and grandson of the "Idaho Sheep King," beat back challenges from far-right candidates, including current Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump and embraced white nationalist figures in her campaign.

His opponents largely focused their campaigns on bashing Little's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. He was the first Western Republican governor to issue a stay-at-home order in March 2020 but reopened Idaho's economy by mid-June that year.

Little's challengers also tried to smear him as an establishment, liberal RINO (Republican in name only) who was out of touch with the state's conservative base.

His victory in the primary nearly assures him a second term in a state where voters haven't elected a Democrat to statewide office since 2002. The last Democratic governor, Cecil Andrus, won his final term in 1990.

Little beat his 2018 Democratic Party challenger, Paulette Jordan, by more than 20 points.

Tuesday's win also signals a major blow to far-right candidates who filed to run in nearly every statewide race this year.

Republican Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, right, shortly before greeting a crowd on the steps of the Idaho Capitol in Boise on May 19, 2021 as she announces her bid for the governor race in 2022.
James Dawson / Boise State Public Radio
/
Boise State Public Radio
Republican Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, right, shortly before greeting a crowd on the steps of the Idaho Capitol in Boise on May 19, 2021 as she announces her bid for the governor race in 2022.

Meanwhile, Little snagged endorsements – and substantially more money than McGeachin – from traditional and mainstream business groups, organizations and high-dollar donors.

In Idaho, the governor and lieutenant governor don't run on the same ticket and the relationship between Little and McGeachin has been tenuous – at best – over the past two years. At one point in the early days of the pandemic, the two hadn't spoken for weeks.

"Well, it doesn't make it easier. I can tell you that," he told Boise State Public Radio when asked how the two could have an effective working relationship without speaking to each other.

In May 2020, McGeachin, along with other politicians, visited a brewery in north-central Idaho that opened in defiance of Little's reopening plan.

Since then, McGeachin has repeatedly clashed with the governor.

She issued two executive orders while acting as governor when Little was out of state – one banning mask mandates, which were never issued statewide, and another barring governments from implementing COVID-19 vaccine or testing mandates.

He immediately repealed them, saying McGeachin had subverted his authority.

Little's plans include building on back-to-back record-breaking tax cuts, as he hinted at in a press release earlier this month. Idaho is currently projecting a $1.3 billion budget surplus for the current fiscal year underpinned by strong income tax growth despite rate cuts that went into effect in 2021.

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio News

Tags
James Dawson joined Boise State Public Radio as the organization's News Director in 2017. He oversees the station's award-winning news department. Most recently, he covered state politics and government for Delaware Public Media since the station first began broadcasting in 2012 as the country's newest NPR affiliate. Those reports spanned two governors, three sessions of the Delaware General Assembly, and three consequential elections. His work has been featured on All Things Considered and NPR's newscast division. An Idaho native from north of the time zone bridge, James previously served as the public affairs reporter and interim news director for the commercial radio network Inland Northwest Broadcasting. His reporting experience included state and local government, arts and culture, crime, and agriculture. He's a proud University of Idaho graduate with a bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media. When he's not in the office, you can find James fly fishing, buffing up on his photography or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.