Idaho Gov. Brad Little wins GOP primary over Trump's pick, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin
Updated May 18, 2022 at 12:30 AM ET
Gov. Brad Little has once again won the Republican primary for Idaho's highest office, according to a race call by The Associated Press.
Little, a longtime political figure, rancher and grandson of the "Idaho Sheep King," beat back challenges from far-right candidates, including current Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump and embraced white nationalist figures in her campaign.
His opponents largely focused their campaigns on bashing Little's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. He was the first Western Republican governor to issue a stay-at-home order in March 2020 but reopened Idaho's economy by mid-June that year.
Little's challengers also tried to smear him as an establishment, liberal RINO (Republican in name only) who was out of touch with the state's conservative base.
His victory in the primary nearly assures him a second term in a state where voters haven't elected a Democrat to statewide office since 2002. The last Democratic governor, Cecil Andrus, won his final term in 1990.
Little beat his 2018 Democratic Party challenger, Paulette Jordan, by more than 20 points.
Tuesday's win also signals a major blow to far-right candidates who filed to run in nearly every statewide race this year.
Meanwhile, Little snagged endorsements – and substantially more money than McGeachin – from traditional and mainstream business groups, organizations and high-dollar donors.
In Idaho, the governor and lieutenant governor don't run on the same ticket and the relationship between Little and McGeachin has been tenuous – at best – over the past two years. At one point in the early days of the pandemic, the two hadn't spoken for weeks.
"Well, it doesn't make it easier. I can tell you that," he told Boise State Public Radio when asked how the two could have an effective working relationship without speaking to each other.
In May 2020, McGeachin, along with other politicians, visited a brewery in north-central Idaho that opened in defiance of Little's reopening plan.
Since then, McGeachin has repeatedly clashed with the governor.
She issued two executive orders while acting as governor when Little was out of state – one banning mask mandates, which were never issued statewide, and another barring governments from implementing COVID-19 vaccine or testing mandates.
He immediately repealed them, saying McGeachin had subverted his authority.
Little's plans include building on back-to-back record-breaking tax cuts, as he hinted at in a press release earlier this month. Idaho is currently projecting a $1.3 billion budget surplus for the current fiscal year underpinned by strong income tax growth despite rate cuts that went into effect in 2021.
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