BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Tuesday won the GOP gubernatorial primary, beating a Trump-backed challenger who had repeatedly criticized the incumbent for not being conservative enough.
The intraparty contest between Little and Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin was an example of the choice GOP voters face nationwide between established candidates and insurgents endorsed by former President Donald Trump.
Little and McGeachin frequently feuded over coronavirus precautions and the role of government. Last year McGeachin twice attempted a power grab when Little was out of state on business.
Republicans are almost guaranteed of winning in the general election as Democrats haven’t held the governor’s office since 1995 or statewide office since 2007. Republicans hold supermajorities in the House and Senate, and Democrats aren’t even contesting more than half of the Legislature’s 105 seats.
Little was attending a Republican Governors Association meeting in Tennessee last May when McGeachin issued an executive order banning mask mandates. Little quickly rescinded the order and decried her actions as an “irresponsible, self-serving political stunt.” He had never issued statewide COVID-19 mask mandates, instead saying that local officials should be able to do what they see fit.
She tried it again a few months later when Little was away, issuing an executive order that expanded on a directive that no Idaho government could require vaccine passports. She sought to add K-12 schools and universities to the ban.
McGeachin accused Little, the first-term governor, of rejecting conservative principles, writing on Twitter that “protecting individual liberty means fighting against tyranny at ALL levels of government.”
Little, a rancher from southwest Idaho, served as lieutenant governor from 2009 to 2019 before becoming governor. He touts the record $600 million income tax cut he signed earlier this year that includes a one-time $350 million in rebates and $250 million in permanent income tax reductions going forward for people and businesses.
The 68-year-old Little also highlighted his “Leading Idaho” plan that includes a record $300 million education spending increase, plus spending $200 million ongoing for roads and bridges, the largest ever increase for transportation.
The 59-year-old McGeachin had, and frequently touted, an endorsement by Trump, who won Idaho with 64% of the vote in the last general election. McGeachin has also promoted Trump’s lies that the 2020 election was stolen from him through mass voter fraud.