NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate provides the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, May 18th, 2022

Insurgent faction mostly strikes out with voters in Idaho’s 2022 Republican primary

Idaho’s con­ser­v­a­tive Repub­li­can rulers, who have gov­erned the Gem State for twen­ty-eight years, turned back a far-right insur­gency on Tues­day. The state’s pri­ma­ry elec­tion took the form of two rival slates in a one-par­ty state.

Incum­bent Repub­li­can Gov­er­nor Brad Lit­tle defeat­ed a chal­lenge from Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor Jan­ice McGeachin by a twen­ty-point mar­gin. McGeachin man­aged to car­ry only four coun­ties in the Ida­ho Pan­han­dle, areas that have become a hotbed for white nation­al­ists and oth­er anti-gov­ern­ment extremists.

Ida­ho House Speak­er Scott Bed­ke best­ed Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Priscil­la Gid­dings in the con­test for the Repub­li­cans’ lieu­tenant gov­er­nor nomination.

Gid­dings is one of more than twen­ty state leg­is­la­tors asso­ci­at­ed with the Ida­ho Free­dom Foun­da­tion, an insur­gent group that has gained strength as ex-Pres­i­dent Trump has gained dom­i­nance in the nation­al Repub­li­can Party.

Mean­while, twelve-term U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mike Simp­son turned back a chal­lenge from Bryan Smith, a vice chair­man of the Ida­ho Free­dom Foundation.

Simp­son is a con­ser­v­a­tive, but has on occa­sion bro­ken from the par­ty line.

He vot­ed in the House for an inde­pen­dent bipar­ti­san com­mis­sion to probe the Jan­u­ary 6th, 2021 insur­rec­tion at the U.S. Capitol.

(Sen­ate Repub­li­cans killed the House-passed proposal.)

He cham­pi­oned cre­ation of the Boul­der-White Cloud Wilder­ness Area and has pro­posed a plan to breach four salmon-destroy­ing dams on the low­er Snake River.

Ida­ho used to be a com­pet­i­tive state.

A Demo­c­rat, Cecil Andrus, was elect­ed gov­er­nor in 1970, 1974, 1986 and 1990, tak­ing four years off to serve as U.S. Sec­re­tary of the Inte­ri­or under Pres­i­dent Jim­my Carter. Sen­a­tor Frank Church served from 1956 to 1980, and ran for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion in 1976.

The Democ­rats did good deeds.

Andrus cham­pi­oned cleanup of the Snake Riv­er, even enlist­ing pota­to king J.R. Sim­plot in the effort. He held on as Inte­ri­or Sec­re­tary until the last hours of the Carter Admin­is­tra­tion in order to cre­ate a Birds of Prey Sanc­tu­ary along the riv­er. Andrus and Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Jim McClure col­lab­o­rat­ed on cre­ation of the Hells Canyon and Saw­tooth Nation­al Recre­ation Areas.

Church was an ear­ly crit­ic of Viet­nam War esca­la­tion, evok­ing a famous demon­stra­tion of Lyn­don Johnson’s tem­per at Ice Har­bor Dam ded­i­ca­tion cer­e­monies. He head­ed the Sen­ate pan­el in the mid-1970s that inves­ti­gat­ed excess­es of the Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency. He is the name­sake of the 1.8 mil­lion acre Frank Church Riv­er-of-no-Return Wilder­ness along the Salmon River.

Well, that was then.

The state’s present-day rulers have kept the state min­i­mum wage at $7.25 an hour. Pub­lic social invest­ment is at one of the low­est lev­els in the nation. The Leg­is­la­ture recent­ly passed, and Gov­er­nor Lit­tle signed, anti-abor­tion leg­is­la­tion mod­eled after the Texas statute now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Yet, that has not been enough for the state’s far right. “Anti-reg­u­la­tion, anti-pub­lic schools, anti-sci­ence, Ida­ho is the nation­al GOP on steroids,” said Marc John­son, an Ida­ho polit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor who was once Andrus’ chief of staff.

Com­pe­ti­tion is bad­ly need­ed. Although pos­ing as a par­ty of fam­i­ly val­ues, Idaho’s Repub­li­cans are no strangers to scandal.

U.S. Sen­a­tor Lar­ry Craig did not seek reelec­tion after an inde­cen­cy arrest in a bath­room stall at the Min­neapo­lis-St. Paul Air­port. A tip­sy Sen­a­tor Steve Symms once stum­bled through a Sen­ate floor speech hon­or­ing Nation­al Sec­re­taries Day. (Both Symms and Craig lat­er became D.C. lobbyists.)

Sen­a­tor Mike Crapo, up for reelec­tion this year, has with­stood embar­rass­ment of a DUI arrest. Future Gov­er­nor C.L. “Butch” Otter endured a sim­i­lar arrest, try­ing to blame tight fit­ting new cow­boy boots for his errant driving.

In her chal­lenge to Lit­tle, Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor McGeachin pro­posed using mili­tia groups to bol­ster ranks of local law enforcement.

She demand­ed that Lit­tle call a spe­cial ses­sion of the Leg­is­la­ture to remove rape and incest excep­tions from the new abor­tion law.

When Lit­tle was out of state at a Repub­li­can Gov­er­nors Asso­ci­a­tion con­fer­ence, McGeachin issued an exec­u­tive order for­bid­ding any local gov­ern­ment enti­ty from enact­ing a mask require­ment. Lit­tle swift­ly coun­ter­mand­ed the order and called it an “irre­spon­si­ble, self-serv­ing pub­lic­i­ty stunt.”

The far right scored one sig­nif­i­cant Repub­li­can pri­ma­ry vic­to­ry on Tuesday.

Ex-Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Raúl Labrador, a lib­er­tar­i­an and Ida­ho Free­dom Foun­da­tion ally, upset long­time state Attor­ney Gen­er­al Lawrence Was­den. Was­den drew fire when he refused to sign Ida­ho onto a 2020 law­suit by Texas seek­ing to throw out elec­toral votes from four states nar­row­ly car­ried by Biden.

As in most states, the Ida­ho Attor­ney Gen­er­al’s office is con­sid­ered a path to the gov­er­nor­ship. Labrador’s win has unset­tling ram­i­fi­ca­tions for 2026 and beyond.

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