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Idaho Gov. Brad Little files for re-election, enters GOP governor’s primary

Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin
Otto Kitsinger
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Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin at the Idaho Capitol on January 17, 2022. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Candidate filing period closes Friday

As expected, Idaho Gov. Brad Little is running for re-election in the 2022 Republican primary election.

Little, a 68-year-old Republican from Emmett, filed official declaration of candidacy forms on Friday.

Little joins a field of five other GOP gubernatorial candidates who have filed declaration of candidacy forms, including:

  • Bonner County Commissioner Steven Bradshaw
  • Edward Humprheys
  • Lisa Marie
  • Ben Cannady 
  • Ashley Jackson

Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin also filed to officially run for governor on Friday morning, according to a Facebook Live video she posted.

Republicans Cody Usabel and Chris Hammond have also announced they will run in the Republican primary for the governor’s race.

As of Thursday night, Marsing Democrat Stephen Heidt was the only Democratic candidate to file to run for governor. Two other Democrats have also announced gubernatorial campaigns, including Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad and Robert Dempsay. Neither had filed declaration of candidacy forms as of Thursday night.

Independent Ammon Bundy, Libertarians Paul Sand and John Dionne, Jr., and Constitution Party candidate Chantyrose Davison have also filed declaration of candidacy forms to run for governor.

The official filing period for political candidates to submit declaration of candidacy forms to appear on the 2022 ballots closes at 5 p.m. Friday.

Even before his campaign became official, Little led the field of gubernatorial candidates in campaign fundraising, hauling in more than $1.4 million, the Idaho Capital Sun has previously reported. Little’s next closest rival, McGeachin, reported raising $535,812.

Idaho’s primary elections are scheduled for May 17. The winner of the Democratic and Republican primary elections advance to the general election in November. Idaho governors serve terms that last four years. Little is coming to the end of his first term in office.

Brad Little’s Idaho background

Little is a rancher by background who entered government and politics like his father, David Little, who served in the Idaho Senate from 1975-1986.

Brad Little served in the Idaho Senate from 2001 until 2009, when he was appointed by then-Gov. Butch Otter to serve as lieutenant governor. Little served as lieutenant governor until after he was elected Idaho’s 33rd governor in 2018.

From the beginning of his first term in office, Little said education and early literacy were among his top priorities.

His policy priorities for 2022 are similar to those from his first year in office in 2019 — increasing state funding for teacher pay and for investing in and expanding the kindergarten through third grade literacy initiative.

Little is also fond of reciting his mantra that taxes should be “fair, simple, competitive and predictable.”

So far in the 2022 session, Little has succeeded on two of his biggest proposals — the Idaho Legislature passing a $600 million income tax cut and rebate bill and passing House Bill 443, which sets up a fund to pay for public school teachers to join the state’s health and dental group insurance plans.

Although Little has positioned himself as the pro-education candidate, his handling of the coronavirus pandemic also brought him into the public eye over the past two years.

More than 4,800 Idahoans have died of COVID-19 since the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in Idaho in March 2020. As the state’s top elected official, Little often received public criticism from both sides politically. Those concerns often bubbled to the surface during his regular telephone calls with Idaho residents that AARP Idaho coordinated. Although he deferred to local control and never implemented a statewide mask mandate, some conservatives said Little’s emergency and public health orders at the beginning of the pandmeic restricted too many freedoms and liberties. Meanwhile, some progressives said Little didn’t act strongly enough to slow the spread of the virus.

Over the past two years, McGeachin clashed with Little often. (In Idaho, the lieutenant governor and governor do not run for office together as part of a unified ticket, in the way candidates for president and vice president do.)

McGeachin encouraged businesses to violate his stay-home public safety order from 2020. Then McGeachin issued executive orders twice in 2021 when Little left the state and McGeachin assumed the role of acting governor. One of McGeachin’s executive orders banned all mask mandates, another banned COVID-19 testing and vaccination at schools.

Little repealed McGeachin’s executive orders almost immediately, and called them political stunts and misuses of power. McGeachin, who announced her own gubernatorial campaign much earlier in May 2021 used the opportunities to position herself to Little’s right politically.