Idaho lieutenant governor bans vaccine mandates while governor out of state

<span>Photograph: Darin Oswald/AP</span>
Photograph: Darin Oswald/AP
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Idaho’s Republican governor, Brad Little, temporarily left the state on Tuesday on government business and his deputy, Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin, immediately began issuing rightwing orders while she was temporarily holding executive power – including a ban on coronavirus vaccine mandates.

That same afternoon, McGeachin issued an executive order – as acting governor – banning state officials from requiring what she called “Covid-19 vaccine passports” from employees, the Washington Post reported.

Little, who was in Texas meeting with nine other Republican governors over concerns about Joe Biden’s handling of migration at the US-Mexico border, promised to quickly reverse McGeachin’s order as soon as he returned to Idaho.

“I am in Texas performing my duties as the duly elected governor of Idaho, and I have not authorized the lieutenant governor to act on my behalf,” Little said in a statement shortly after arriving in Texas on Tuesday. “I will be rescinding and reversing any actions taken by the lieutenant governor when I return,” he added.

Also on Tuesday, the battle between the governor and his No 2 continued.

McGeachin, who has associations with far-right militia members, attempted to activate the Idaho national guard and send troops to the southern border in a highly unorthodox move to crack down on undocumented people attempting to cross into the US 2,000 miles away from her state.

“As of Wednesday, my constitutional authority as governor affords me the power of activating the Idaho national guard,” McGeachin wrote to major general Michael Garshak in a letter.

Garshak shot down McGeachin’s request, replying: “I am unaware of any request for Idaho national guard assistance under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) from Texas or Arizona … As you are aware, the Idaho National Guard is not a law enforcement agency.”

McGeachin’s national guard request also drew criticism from Little, who said in a statement: “Attempting to deploy our national guard for political grandstanding is an affront to the Idaho constitution and insults the men and women who have dedicated their life to serving our state and the country.”

Tuesday’s maneuver was not the first sign of conflict between the governor and lieutenant governor. In May, when Little was out of state, McGeachin issued an executive order that banned mask mandates, which help prevent the spread of Covid-19. Little revoked the ban when he returned.

According to Idaho’s constitution, the lieutenant governor is required to take over when the governor is out of state.

McGeachin, a far-right Republican, is running for governor in next year’s Republican primary. In Idaho, the governor and lieutenant governor do not run on the same ticket, therefore setting up a potential political battle within the party in the coming months.

In June, McGeachin was endorsed by a rightwing militia leader after announcing her gubernatorial candidacy.

In a video obtained by the Guardian, Eric Parker, who was charged over his role in the libertarian standoff at Bundy Ranch in Nevada in 2014 where he was photographed pointing an assault rifle at federal agents, praised McGeachin in a glowing speech.

“We need to do everything we can to get her where she can do the most good for us … we got her in there for us,” Parker said, before embracing McGeachin.

McGeachin has been involved in a series of previous controversies that involved ties to extremist groups. In 2018, she refused to answer media questions regarding whether she was using Three Percenter members as part of her security detail during her gubernatorial run.

She has also previously pledged her support to anti-mask and anti-lockdown protesters across Idaho.