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Lieutenant Governor and Governor of Idaho–Both Republicans–Clash on Reopening Guidelines

Fed up with Idaho’s draconian cornonavirus policies, the Republican lieutenant governor of Idaho is openly disputing her governor’s reopening guidelines. According to the Daily Beast, “anti-lockdown” Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin has “gone rogue” in defiance of Gov. Brad Little’s reopening orders. The two have reportedly not spoken to each other in weeks due to the policy divide.

Little—also a Republican—ordered bars to stay closed until at least May 30, but McGeachin has already reopened a tavern she owns with her family in Idaho Falls.

McGeachin, who owns four small businesses with her family, has for months been butting heads with Little over his oversight of the coronavirus pandemic. In April, she wrote to the governor, urging him to commit to fully reopening the economy no later than May 1st.

The day after Little’s stay-at-home order was lifted earlier this month, McGeachin also attended a “Disobey Idaho” protest outside the state capitol building.

After Little announced a four staged plan to reopen businesses in the state earlier this month, McGeachin wrote a withering opinion piece in the Idaho Statesman blasting the “heavy hand” of the government, and accusing the state of “picking winners and losers” by “unilaterally deciding which businesses were ‘essential.’”

“My reputation and current position has many constituents asking me why small businesses and entrepreneurs — who make up the backbone of Idaho’s economy — are largely underrepresented in the governor’s coronavirus advisory committees, task forces and economic reopening committees,” McGeachin wrote in her May 13 piece.

I lose sleep at night because the heavy hand of our government is hurting so many Idahoans. Idahoans were sidelined and left to watch silently as the government closed Main Street by unilaterally deciding which businesses were “essential” and which ones were not. By deciding that certain goods can only be purchased at certain places, or not at all, our government has been selecting economic winners and losers throughout this pandemic.

McGeachin has taken exception to the idea that her family broke any rules by re-launching The Celt Pub and Grill in mid-May, explaining in a Facebook post that The Celt is a restaurant and was thus allowed to reopen earlier. Moreover, the tavern says it’s taking precautions: “operating at 50 percent capacity; capping parties at six people; using paper menus.”  Also, staff are required to wear face masks during their shifts.

Earlier this month, a bar in Kendrick, Idaho defied the governor’s “Stay Healthy” reopening orders by reopening its doors a month early.  McGeachin, and three other local Republican lawmakers, along with about 30 other people patronized the financially stressed business to express their support.

Law enforcement visited the establishment multiple times during the relaunch to talk to the owners but no arrests were made.

McGeachin said at the time that she traveled to Kendrick from Boise to show her support after Christine and Doug Lohman invited her to their reopening of the Hardware Brewing Co.

She told the Spokesman-Review that the state should provide guidelines—not mandates during the pandemic.

“People can manage themselves and we know how to take care of our customers, our employees, our business,” McGeachin said. “We don’t need the government to mandate things.”

She said she is thankful Little lifted the stay-home order, but she is deeply opposed to the government deciding which businesses are essential and nonessential.

“It’s been frustrating because I have tried to convey as best as I can (to Little) the frustration and the anxiety that I sense from people all over the state and to convey how important it is that we try to do something to help the average person who’s been suddenly unemployed,” McGeachin said.

As of May 5, 117,811 people had filed for unemployment in Idaho since mid-March,  twice the total number of initial claims filed in all of 2019, according to the Idaho Department of Labor.

Idaho has only had 2,606 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 79 deaths.