Idaho’s MAGA Lt. Governor Just Tried to Seize Power, Again

While the actual governor was out of town, the lieutenant governor banned mandatory COVID testing.
October 6, 2021, 2:17pm
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. (Nathan Howa
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. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

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Nothing to see in Idaho—just a minor coup attempt launched by the state’s lieutenant governor against the sitting governor as soon as he was out of the state.

Gov. Brad Little—who, like Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, is a Republican—traveled to Texas Tuesday for a meeting with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, and seven other governors about immigration and the border. Little is expected to be back in the state on Wednesday night. But on Tuesday, McGeachin issued what she called a “fix” to Little’s executive order banning vaccine mandates, so that now it also prohibits testing requirements. 

Little said Tuesday that he would “be rescinding and reversing any actions taken by the Lt. Governor when I return.”

“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 in a statement posted to Facebook. 

Though Little is a conservative Republican who has opposed vaccine requirements, he’s pleaded for people to get vaccinated, particularly as the state saw a surge of Delta that forced officials to allow hospitals to ration care. McGeachin, meanwhile, falsely claimed on Tuesday that “natural immunity is more effective than vaccines.”

In addition to her Tuesday vaccine order, McGeachin attempted to activate the National Guard in order to send troops to the border in Texas. 

“As of Wednesday, my constitutional authority as Governor affords me the power of activating the Idaho National Guard,” McGeachin wrote to Major Gen. Michael Garshak, the Adjutant General of the state National Guard, in a letter obtained by the AP. “As the Adjutant General, I am requesting information from you on the steps needed for the Governor to activate the National Guard.”

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“I am unaware of any request for Idaho National Guard assistance under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) from Texas or Arizona,” Garshak responded. “As you are aware, the Idaho National Guard is not a law enforcement agency.”

Little addressed the attempted deployment Tuesday. “Attempting to deploy our National Guard for political grandstanding is an affront to the Idaho constitution and insults the men and women who have dedicated their life to serving our state and the country,” he said, adding that he’s already sent Idaho state troopers to the border “to support drug interdiction efforts.”

McGeachin and Little did not run on the same ticket, and in fact, she’s already launched a primary challenge against him. This is also not the first time McGeachin has seized on Little’s temporary absence to implement far-right policies; in May, while Little attended the Republican Governors Association’s annual meeting, McGeachin issued an order banning mask mandates.

Little repealed that order, and called it an “​​over-the-top executive action” that “amounts to tyranny—something we all oppose.”

“How ironic that the action comes from a person who has groused about tyranny, executive overreach, and balance of power for months,” Little said at the time.