Idaho Governor and Lieutenant Governor Duel Over Vaccine Mandates
Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin of Idaho took advantage of an out-of-state trip by Gov. Brad Little on Tuesday to issue an executive order forbidding educational institutions from requiring proof of vaccination from employees. She said on Twitter that in her pursuit of “individual liberty,” she had “fixed” an order the governor had issued earlier.
Governor Little’s order, made in the spring, prohibits state agencies from requiring or issuing proof of Covid vaccinations, but does not specifically name universities and public K-12 schools. When he returned Wednesday from a trip to Texas, he promptly repealed Ms. McGeachin’s order, writing that he had notified her that “no official business would require her services in an acting governor capacity” during his absence.
The lieutenant governor, who is elected independently of the governor, is challenging Mr. Little for the position, and the two have feuded throughout their tenure. Ms. McGeachin has consistently criticized Mr. Little’s measures to contain the virus, casting his restrictions as government overreach. And this week was not their first round of political one-upping.
In May, when Mr. Little was away at the Republican Governors Association conference, Ms. McGeachin issued a ban on mask mandates, which he then repealed. Idaho did not have a statewide mask mandate, but an executive order required masks at long-term care facilities and said they were “strongly recommended” elsewhere. Nor did Mr. Little prevent municipalities from issuing their own directives on masks.
On Tuesday, Ms. McGeachin also asked about mobilizing the Idaho National Guard and sending troops to the Mexican border, where Mr. Little and other Republican governors had traveled that day.
Mr. Little replied on Facebook that “attempting to deploy our National Guard for political grandstanding is an affront to the Idaho constitution.” In the past he has described Ms. McGeachin’s activity in his absence as “irresponsible” and “self-serving.”
Asked about the battles, Jaclyn J. Kettler, a political scientist at Boise State University, noted that although both Mr. Little and Ms. McGeachin are Republicans, the lieutenant governor is further to the right politically and that there is tension between the two, particularly regarding coronavirus rules and restrictions.
While Ms. McGeachin’s base might be cheering her on for defying Mr. Little, Prof. Kettler said, “there are many Idahoans that are perhaps baffled or frustrated with these type of developments.”
“The Covid situation here is not great,” she said.
About 42 percent of eligible people in Idaho are vaccinated, according to a New York Times database. The state’s recent weekly average has been about 1,300 new cases a day.
Michael Levenson contributed reporting.