CHUCK MALLOY: We may be calling her ‘Gov. McGeachin’ someday

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Introducing Idaho’s first woman governor (drum roll optional) …

It probably won’t be Rep. Paulette Jordan, although she’s the only major-party candidate who is running for the job. She deserves credit for providing a spark of interest among Democrats, but not enough to make Idaho a “blue” state.

The early favorite for the “first woman governor” title is former Rep. Janice McGeachin of Idaho Falls, the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor. That’s assuming, of course that she gets by Democrat Kristin Collum in the General Election — which is a safe assumption in Idaho.

Lieutenant governor is hardly a glamorous position. It’s only a part-time job, and the only real perk is that it’s a heartbeat away from the governor’s chair. But over the years, lieutenant governor has been a marvelous stepping stone since Butch Otter held the job. He went on to become a congressman, then a three-term governor. Jim Risch became governor, and now has a comfortable seat in the U.S. Senate. Little, fresh off his primary-election win, is the odds-on choice to win the governor’s office.

McGeachin is well aware of the career boost this office offers, which leads me to believe she won’t do anything to mess this up. She probably wasn’t Little’s first choice as a running-mate, but she was the one that the voters gave to him.

McGeachin was the one who came out on top in a jungle primary where five candidates were trying to “out-conservative” one another. She aligned herself with the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which grades lawmakers on a conservative scale, and the so-called “liberty” legislators who politically are trying to turn Idaho more to the right. She was siding with those who branded Little as a liberal — or in more degrading terms — a RINO.

McGeachin, who did not endorse a candidate in the governor’s race, did not join in with the Little bashers, and it’s a good thing that she didn’t.

“I’m looking forward to working with Brad Little. He’s a good man,” she said.

Little says he’s not looking back at the past election. What matters, he says, “We’re on the same team, we are the standard bearers for the party and we are going to work together to be successful in November.”

There’s no doubt that they will say the right things on the campaign trail. Time will tell if they have the kind of constructive working relationship that Little has had with Gov. Butch Otter. McGeachin should have no trouble acing the routine parts of the job — presiding over the Senate and serving as acting governor when the boss is out of town. It’s not in her nature to impose a “new agenda” for Idaho when the governor is away.

“Being a loose cannon doesn’t get you anywhere. I’m all about solving problems, and that’s why I got into this race. I care about our state,” she said. “I’m 55 years old … I’ve learned a lot over the years, and have had a lot of experiences and challenges. I’ve been married for 31 years, have two successful adult children and have run businesses. I’m a strong individual.”

For certain, it takes fortitude to enter a statewide race while running a restaurant business, and defeat a field that included a former chairman of the state Republican Party and three sitting legislators.

She has plenty of legislative experience. Her 10-year career included service on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee — which gives her insight on the budgeting process and a view of state government. She also chaired the House Health and Welfare Committee, which is one of the more challenging assignments in the Legislature.

Her immediate priorities include winning the office in November, building a foundation of trust with the new governor and taking on a high level of responsibility with a new administration. The first stop in her journey is campaigning with Little, and she looks forward to that opportunity.

“Now that the primary election is over, our job is to make it real clear the difference between the policies that we as Republicans believe in and support and the policies that Democrats believe in and support,” she says. “We’ll be united on that front.”

• • •

Chuck Malloy, a Silver Valley native and longtime Idaho journalist, is a columnist with Idaho Politics Weekly. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com.

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