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Some Idaho Republicans look to Democrats to help 'rescue' the state

Some Idaho Republicans are so concerned about upcoming primaries that they're seeking help from Democrats and independent voters.


At first blush, it's tempting to think GOP politics in South Dakota are a bit of a mess. After all, the state's Republican attorney general, who may soon be impeached, said he'd investigate an abuse-of-power scandal involving the state's Republican governor.

It doesn't help that we recently learned that Republican state Senate Majority Leader Gary Cammack was arrested last year, and no one seems to know why.

But all things considered, South Dakota is quiet and tranquil compared to GOP politics in Idaho.

It was a year ago this month when Janice McGeachin, Idaho's Republican lieutenant governor, released a video condemning coronavirus restrictions implemented in the state she helps lead. McGeachin delivered the message from her pickup truck — with a Bible in her hand.

Six months later, the lieutenant governor said she was so outraged by Idaho Gov. Brad Little's efforts to protect the public with public-health safeguards that McGeachin launched a GOP primary campaign against the incumbent governor.

Things got quite a bit weirder last week when Little briefly traveled to Texas, at which McGeachin, claiming to be the acting governor, issued a sweeping executive order to prevent all schools in the state from requiring vaccinations or mandatory Covid-19 testing. She also reportedly contacted the Idaho National Guard about activating troops and sending them to the U.S.-Mexico border.

The actual, elected governor said the lieutenant governor lacked the authority to do any of this and rescinded her order soon after. (The state's adjutant general also seemed unimpressed.)

It's reached the point at which some Idaho Republicans are looking to non-Republican voters to help in next year's GOP primaries. The Associated Press reported the other day:

[S]ome prominent mainstream Republicans, worried the state's hard-right drift could scuttle their efforts to grow Idaho's economy, are asking Democrats and Independents to register as Republicans to vote in the party's May primary.... The mainstream Republicans who have controlled the state for decades worry that if far-right Republicans like McGeachin gain control it will be bad for business. Their fear is Idaho will be unable to attract high-paying tech jobs and that highly-skilled workers who want to flee pricey West Coast cities won't move to the state if it's run by extremists.

"Everybody and their dog ought to get out to the primary and have their say so," said Jim Jones, a former chief justice of the Idaho Supreme Court and former Republican Idaho attorney general. "That's where your vote counts."

Just so we're all clear, the Idaho Republicans leading the state right now aren't exactly moderates. By national standards, GOP officials like Brad Little would be seen as very conservative on practically every major issue.

But these Republicans looking for Democratic and independent voters' help make a distinction between conservative GOP officials and those on the crackpot fringe.

The AP spoke to Bob Kustra, a Republican and the former president of Boise State University, who said, "This really is about rescuing Idaho from a group of people who have given Idaho a very very bad name nationally. The only way that this state is going to rid itself of these far-right radicals is to get more people into that Republican primary."

Idaho has what's known as "closed" primaries, which means voters have to be registered with one party or the other to participate in the party's primary elections. In this instance, it would mean Democrats and independents would have to register as GOP voters in order to "rescue" Idaho from far-right extremists running in Republican primaries.

Primary Day in Idaho is in May. Watch this space.