Idaho Republican gubernatorial primary includes sitting governor and lieutenant governor for first time since 1938

Eight candidates are running in the Republican primary for governor of Idaho on May 17. Incumbent Gov. Brad Little and Janice McGeachin, the state’s current lieutenant governor, lead in fundraising and media attention.

Idaho is one of 17 states where the lieutenant governor is nominated in a separate primary and elected in a separate general election from the governor. According to the Idaho Press‘s Betsy Russell, an incumbent Idaho governor has not been challenged in a primary by the lieutenant governor since 1938. 

The Idaho Statesman’s Ryan Suppe said of Little and McGeachin, “The two former allies … have had a tense relationship in recent years.” Much of that tension has revolved around responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. In two instances in 2021, McGeachin issued executive orders related to COVID-19 measures—the first, while Little was at a Republican Governors Association meeting, banning mask mandates, and the second, while Little was at the U.S.-Mexico border, expanding a prohibition against state entities requiring vaccination or testing. Little rescinded both orders the following day.

The Idaho Constitution says that if the governor is absent from the state, the duties of the office transfer to the lieutenant governor. McGeachin and Little disagreed on whether the Idaho Constitution transfers the duties of the governor’s office to the lieutenant governor in the event of the governor’s physical absence or effective absence.

Little is running on his record, saying that his first term was “marked by historic tax relief, unparalleled red tape reduction, extraordinary economic growth, and unprecedented investments in education.” He said, “During my first term, together, we achieved billions in historic tax relief, record investments in transportation, and continued our strong support for education in Idaho.” Little said, “I am committed to continuing to lead Idaho with my goal for Idaho in mind to make Idaho the place where we all can have the opportunity to thrive, where our children and grandchildren choose to stay, and for the ones who have left to choose to return.” The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund and the Idaho Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Little.

McGeachin said she is “running for Governor to restore the principles that have Made Idaho Great — individual liberty, state sovereignty, and traditional conservative values.” She said she is a “proven conservative leader with an established track record of working with others to promote fiscal responsibility.” McGeachin said, “My campaign has been endorsed by President Trump because I stand for America First policies including individual liberty, election integrity, a strong and secure border, school choice, energy independence, reducing taxes and regulations, and supporting American businesses.” Former President Donald Trump (R) endorsed McGeachin in Nov. 2021.

Also running in the primary are Steven Bradshaw, Ben Cannady, Ed Humphreys, Ashley Jackson, Lisa Marie, and Cody Usabel. 

Major independent observers rate the general election as Solid/Safe Republican. Republicans have had trifecta control of Idaho state government since 1995. The last time a Democrat was elected to statewide office in Idaho was for superintendent of public instruction in 2002.