Idaho’s Republican Gov. And Lt. Gov. Battle Over Executive Powers

Idaho’s state government has had more than its share of political intrigue this year. For the second time in 2021, the state’s Republican Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin has taken advantage of the absence of Republican Governor Brad Little from the state to issue an executive order.

The Idaho Constitution provides that the governor and lieutenant governor do not run on the same ticket for the election. McGeachin has already announced that she is running against Little in the next gubernatorial election.

McGeachin issued an executive order in the governor’s absence Tuesday prohibiting private employers in the state from implementing COVID vaccine mandates for employees. Gov. Little was in Texas at the time, meeting with nine Republican governors to discuss the ongoing immigration crisis occurring at the southern border.

When Little was advised of McGeachin’s order, he immediately stated that he did not authorize the action and promised to repeal the mandate as soon as he returned to Idaho. He said that he is in Texas handling his official duties as governor and that he did not provide the lieutenant governor any authority to act on his behalf while he was away. 

In addition to her order regarding vaccine mandate prohibition, McGeachin attempted to activate and deploy the Idaho National Guard while Little was away. She wrote to Maj. Gen. Michael J. Garshak told him that she had the authority to trigger the state’s National Guard and asked him for information regarding the steps needed to do so. 

The National Guard took the matter up through military channels, and Gov. Little eventually stopped the move toward activation. He said in a statement that McGeachin had attempted to deploy the National Guard “for political grandstanding” and was an insult to the members of Idaho’s Guard units.

The controversy this week followed a similar event in May while Little was away in Nashville attending a meeting of the Republican Governors Association. In his absence, McGeachin issued an executive order prohibiting Idaho cities and counties from enacting or enforcing masking mandates.

The two Republican rivals are expected to face off in the 2022 governor’s office race, which leaves plenty of time for more political infighting for executive control.