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In Idaho, a power play while the governor’s away

POLITICO logo POLITICO 10/5/2021 By Associated Press
Republican Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin addresses a rally on the Statehouse steps in Boise, Idaho. © Keith Ridler/AP Photo, file Republican Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin addresses a rally on the Statehouse steps in Boise, Idaho.

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Gov. Brad Little said he will rescind an executive order involving Covid-19 vaccines by Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, and the commanding general of the Idaho National Guard also on Tuesday told McGeachin she can’t activate troops to send to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Little and Major General Michael J. Garshak made the statements as McGeachin on Tuesday in a flurry of activity attempted to exercise her authority as acting governor with Little out of the state.

Little is in Texas meeting with nine other Republican governors over concerns on how President Joe Biden is handling border issues. McGeachin, a far-right Republican, is running for governor. In Idaho, the governor and lieutenant governor don’t run on the same ticket.

McGeachin’s executive order issued Tuesday afternoon seeks, among other things, to prevent employers from requiring their employees be vaccinated against Covid-19.

“I am in Texas performing my duties as the duly elected Governor of Idaho, and I have not authorized the Lt. 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 Lt. Governor when I return.”

Little is expected to be back in the state Wednesday evening.

McGeachin in a letter to Garshak on Tuesday morning sought information on how to activate troops.

“As of Wednesday, my constitutional authority as Governor affords me the power of activating the Idaho National Guard,” McGeachin wrote to Garshak in the letter obtained by The Associated Press. “As the Adjutant General, I am requesting information from you on the steps needed for the Governor to activate the National Guard.”

Garshak replied with one paragraph on Tuesday afternoon.

“I am unaware of any request for Idaho National Guard assistance under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) from Texas or Arizona,” Garshak wrote, in part, to McGeachin. “As you are aware, the Idaho National Guard is not a law enforcement agency.”

Little in June sent a team of Idaho State Police troopers to the border to help with intelligence gathering and investigative work to stop drugs from coming across the border.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona had requested the help under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact that empowers states to help other states in times of disasters or emergencies.

“On Sept 24, I spoke to my counterpart in Texas, Lt Gov. Dan Patrick’s office, and they affirmed the need for additional resources in helping the situation on our southern border,” McGeachin told Garshak.

McGeachin’s office on Tuesday didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“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,” Little said in a statement.

In May when Little was out of state, she issued an executive order banning mask mandates that Little eliminated when he returned, saying mask mandate decisions were best left to local officials. Little has never issued a mask mandate.

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