Idaho Lt. Governor signs ban on mask mandates while Governor Little is out of state

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Idaho Governor Brad Little might want to reconsider any upcoming travel plans. While in Tennessee for a Republican conference on Thursday, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin signed an executive order banning mask mandates. Lt. Gov. McGeachin announced just last week that she is running for governor. The election is in 2022. Both Little and McGeachin are Republicans.

The Lt. Governor cleverly saw an opportunity to make some publicity-worthy waves while the governor is away. While the cat’s away, the mice will play. In this case, McGeachin is playing to Republican primary voters for the next election. She wants Little’s job and this is a way for her to strike out on her own. Idaho doesn’t have statewide mask mandates, mind you, but some cities and other jurisdictions had mandated them. McGeachin was acting as acting governor. Her executive order prohibits the state and other jurisdictions like school districts from imposing mask mandates. The order does not apply to federal buildings, hospitals, or health care facilities.

McGeachin didn’t notify the governor’s office before she signed the executive order. She said she has been listening to people across the state. She justified her action by saying she acted “to protect the rights and liberties of individuals and businesses.” What she didn’t say was that she was taking advantage of the situation, a move made out of political opportunism.

Republican Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin is acting governor while Gov. Brad Little is at the Republican Governors Association conference in Nashville, Tennessee. He was expected to return Thursday evening.

Last week, McGeachin announced her run for governor, challenging the first-term incumbent Little. McGeachin is on the far right of the political spectrum in the conservative state, and her order could bolster her support as a candidate for governor.

The executive order was signed by Republican Secretary or State Lawerence Denney and went into effect at 11 a.m. Denney’s office said it confirmed Little was out of state before determining the order was valid under the Idaho Constitution.

The order applies to city and county governments, public universities, colleges and schools, and public libraries. The ban does not apply to federal buildings, hospitals or healthcare facilities.

Courts are not specifically mentioned in the two-page order, and it’s not clear how the executive order would effect that branch of government.

McGeachin says she has never supported any mandates, especially when it comes to health care decisions. Governor Little’s office released a brief statement.

“Throughout the pandemic, Governor Little has been committed to protecting the health and safety of the people of Idaho and has emphasized the importance of Idahoans choosing to protect our neighbors and loved ones and keeping our economy and schools open,” Little’s spokeswoman, Marissa Morrison, said.

McGeachin has not received the COVID-19 vaccine and doesn’t plan to do so. She believes she had the virus last year and has natural immunity now. She described the experience as being similar to having the flu. She could clear up any confusion about natural immunity if she took a blood test that detects if she does have antibodies present to fight off COVID-19. Apparently, she has not done that.

“I have concerns about the long-term, prolonged wearing of the mask, what it may do to our lungs,” she said, noting it was her personal belief. “If it’s something that the individual feels like they need to do to protect themselves than I support that.”

Governor Little’s office said he will have more to say after reviewing the executive action upon his arrival back to Idaho. There has been friction between the two over the governor’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. It is reported that they went three weeks without speaking to each other recently. Little has not announced his decision on running for re-election, though it is expected that he will run again.

Mr. Little, who is in his first term, has not announced if he is running for re-election next year, but observers in the state believe he is likely to enter the race. It would set up a Republican race with the same contours as many others across the United States: Ms. McGeachin would be angling for President Trump’s base, while Mr. Little would represent a more moderate wing of the Republican Party.

We’ll see if McGeachin’s political stunt holds or not after Governor Little’s review of the executive action.