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Ammon Bundy announces he won’t run in Idaho’s Republican primary for governor

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Ammon and Cliven Bundy served burgers at Julius M. Kleiner Memorial Park in Meridian on June 19 during Bundy’s campaign kickoff event. (Clark Corbin/Idaho Capital Sun)

Bundy denies endorsement deal with Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, will run as independent candidate in November

Ammon Bundy, the politically conservative anti-government activist who was renounced by the Idaho Republican Party, now says he will not run in the Republican primary for governor after all.

In a campaign announcement posted to Twitter Thursday morning, Bundy said he would run for governor as an independent candidate. Bundy, who previously announced he would run in the Republican primary, said found himself “in a conundrum” after the arrest of some Idaho Republicans over the past 30 years. All of the arrests occurred well before Bundy originally said he would run for office as a Republican, including former Gov. Butch Otter’s 1992 arrest for driving under the influence.

“Therefore I am announcing that I will not be running in the Republican primary and instead will run as an independent candidate,” Bundy wrote in Thursday’s statement. “I am certain that by unifying Idahoans behind the actual Republican platform we can take back control of the Idaho government and restore the conservative values that have made Idaho such a great place to live.”

Independent and unaffiliated candidates do not participate in the Republican and Democratic primaries in the spring, but can run in the general election in November against the winners of the primaries.

In his statement, Bundy denied reports on social media that he had made an endorsement deal with Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who has also announced she is running for governor in the Republican primary.

“Although this is an intriguing idea, the fact of the matter is Janice McGeachin and I never made any agreement to endorse each other,” Bundy wrote in Thursday’s statement.

Back in May 2021, Bundy appointed a campaign treasurer and filed paperwork indicating he would run for governor as a Republican. He followed that up in June with an official campaign announcement that he would run for governor as a Republican and participate in the Republican primary election, which is scheduled for May 17.

However, there were always questions about whether Bundy would actually run as a Republican.

Bundy was not a registered voter in Gem County when launched his campaign, Gem County Deputy Clerk Julie Bruce said in June.  

Therefore, Bundy was not officially affiliated with the Republican Party.

Idaho Republican Party pushed back against Bundy

After Bundy filed his initial paperwork last year indicating he would run as a Republican, Idaho GOP Chairman Tom Luna released a statement disavowing Bundy.

“Republicans are the party of law and order and, and Ammon Bundy is not suited to call himself an Idaho Republican, let alone run for governor of our great state,” Luna wrote in June.

Through Feb. 14, Bundy’s campaign fundraising efforts lagged behind McGeachin and incumbent Gov. Brad Little.

Bundy reported raising $325,375, while McGeachin reported $535,812 and Little reported raising more than $1.4 million.

The official candidate filing window in Idaho is open from Feb. 28 to March 11. Little has not officially announced his re-election campaign, but he is expected to do so in the coming weeks and has released a campaign advertisement for governor that is running on a local TV station.

Bundy has his own run-ins with law enforcement

Bundy has a controversial past and has been arrested several times himself.

He is a founder and face of the People’s Right movement, which opposes government regulations and COVID-19 restrictions and calls on people to be prepared to defend themselves and their families.

In 2016, Bundy helped lead an armed standoff against the government at Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. In 2016, Ammon and his brother, Ryan Bundy, were found not guilty of all charges stemming from the Malheur standoff.

Before that, in 2014, Bundy’s father, Cliven Bundy, and their family led an armed standoff after the federal government ordered Cliven Bundy to pay unpaid grazing fees and began impounding his cattle. A judge in 2018 dismissed felony conspiracy and firearms charges against Cliven, Ammon and Ryan Bundy stemming from the standoff after saying prosecutors withheld evidence.

In August 2020, Bundy was arrested at the Idaho State Capitol for trespassing, resisting and obstructing officers, Idaho State Police said.

He was also banned from the Idaho State Capitol for a year.

In April 2021, Bundy was again arrested twice for trespassing at the Idaho State Capitol, the Associated Press reported.

The winners of the May 17 Republican and Democratic primary elections advance to November’s general election. Independent and unaffiliated political candidates do not run in the spring primary elections. Those candidates appear on November’s general election ballot.