Idaho Gov. Brad Little gives a speech during the Idaho Republican Party primary celebration on May 17, 2022. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
Idaho Gov. Brad Little won Idaho’s 2022 Republican primary election for governor, with the Associated Press calling the race for the incumbent shortly before 10:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Little defeated Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin and a field of six other GOP hopefuls, according to unofficial election results released by the state.
At about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, Idaho GOP Chairman Tom Luna introduced Little as the winner of the Republican gubernatorial primary at the Idaho Republican election celebration. Little received a standing ovation from the crowd, and he thanked all Republican candidates running in primary races.
“I’ve had a pretty well-known record for 3.5 years,” Little told the Idaho Capital Sun late Tuesday night. “People kind of know what they get with Brad Little.”
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At 3 a.m. Wednesday unofficial election results showed Little receiving 53% of the votes, while McGeachin finished second with 32%. Ed Humphreys finished third with 11%. There were also five other candidates on the Republican gubernatorial ballot. Steven Bradshaw, Ashley Jackson, Cody Usabel and Lisa Marie all had captured less than 2% of the vote.
Little’s primary election win represents a victory for a traditional, establishment Republican over a more extreme, far right challenge from McGeachin. Over the past two years, Little and McGeachin became bitter rivals as they feuded over how to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Twice when Little was out of state and McGeachin was serving as acting governor, McGeachin issued executive orders that banned mask mandates – even though Idaho never had a statewide mask mandate – and COVID-19 testing and vaccinations in schools. Little immediately repealed each of McGeachin’s executive orders and accused her of abusing authority to score cheap political points.
Little is a rancher from Emmett who served in the Idaho Senate, like his father, and as lieutenant governor before being elected governor in 2018. He ran a quiet, nontraditional re-election campaign where he refused to participate in statewide televised debates against his opponents.
“I never did quit governing; I was governing the whole time,” Little told the Sun.
Little made four areas the focal point of his campaign, focusing on public education (particularly increased investments in K-3 reading and literacy and teacher pay), tax cuts, investments in transportation and infrastructure projects and the overall health of the state’s economy, which entered the 2022 legislative session with the largest projected state budget surplus in history.
Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s campaign had Trump’s endorsement
McGeachin challenged Little from the right and won the endorsement of former President Donald J. Trump. On the campaign trail, McGeachin pledged to end medical mandates and vaccine requirements, threw her support behind a 50-state audit of the 2020 election that President Joe Biden decisively won, called for eliminating Idaho’s corporate income tax and grocery tax and vowed to put an end to cancel culture.
Over the past year, McGeachin engaged in a series of missteps that may have cost her politically. After McGeachin refused to release public records related to her 2021 education task force, a district judge ordered her to release the records and pay almost $29,000 in legal fees and costs to the Idaho Press Club, which filed suit in order to obtain the records. The legal fees caused a budget crunch for McGeachin, whose salary was deferred by the state to help avoid a projected budget deficit for her office when the 2022 fiscal year ends June 30. McGeachin has been working without a paid staff to help reduce expenses, and an Idaho taxpayer filed a complaint with three state offices alleging McGeachin’s limited office hours two days a week violated a section of state law that requires state offices to be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.
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Tuesday night’s primary election loss means McGeachin will be out of office once her term expires in January.
With a GOP primary win, Little advances to the Nov. 8 general election, which will also feature the winner of the Democratic gubernatorial primary election, independent and third party candidates. Idahoans may not know who wins the Democratic gubernatorial primary for about a week because of the write-in campaigns.
Tuesday night’s final election results will become available once they are officially canvassed over the next couple of weeks. The deadline for the State Board of Canvassers to meet and conduct the canvass and certify election results is June 1.
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