BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Republican Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin over incumbent Republican Gov. Brad Little in the 2022 race for governor.
Trump made the endorsement late Tuesday through his political action committee following visits from Little and McGeachin last week to his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida.
Trump won deeply conservative Idaho in the 2020 presidential election with nearly 64% of the vote. Trump said McGeachin has been a true supporter of his from the beginning and will fight for strong borders, gun rights, American manufacturing, school choice and farmers.
Trump’s endorsement said: “She will make a fantastic Governor, and will never let you down!”
McGeachin changed her Twitter profile picture to an image of her and Trump standing next to each other and each giving a thumbs-up sign and tweeted: “It is a great honor to receive the endorsement of the greatest President of our lifetime,”
The Idaho secretary of state’s office lists 14 active gubernatorial candidates, including eight Republicans and two Democrats. The Republican primary is in mid-May.
In Idaho, the governor and lieutenant governor don’t run on the same ticket. Little hasn’t yet announced his reelection plans but is expected to run and has been fundraising.
“As Governor, I have worked effectively with Idahoans to make Idaho the least regulated state in the country and maintain the strongest economy,” Little said in a statement to The Associated Press on Wednesday in response to Trump’s endorsement of McGeachin. “We’re pushing back on Biden’s vaccine mandates and unprecedented government overreach while banning vaccine passports here in Idaho.”
Idaho currently has a $1 billion budget surplus and an unemployment rate at pre-pandemic levels, something Little has attributed in part to his cutting regulations that, according to George Mason University, has made Idaho the least-regulated state in the nation. Little in the statement also touted signing earlier this year of one of the largest tax cuts in Idaho’s history.
Little’s statement didn’t include any negative comments about Trump, a one-term president who continues to have significant influence over the Republican Party.
Little last week tweeted a photo of him being recognized by Trump at a gala for the America First Policy Institute, a Trump-aligned nonprofit.
“We also have Gov. Brad Little, who is a terrific gentleman,” Trump said in a recorded video of the speech viewed by the AP.
The relationship between Little and McGeachin has declined sharply in recent months after McGeachin, as acting governor with Little out of the state, issued executive orders involving the coronavirus pandemic, and also sought to find out how to activate the Idaho National Guard to send troops to the U.S.-Mexico border.
Little rescinded all of her executive orders, including one that banned mask mandates, which Little said are decisions that should be left to local officials.
Little has since stopped telling McGeachin when he leaves the state, notably on Little’s trip to Florida, setting up a potential legal battle involving how the Idaho Constitution should be interpreted on the matter.