Earlier we saw how dysfunctional Trump has made the Nebraska GOP. It's a one-party state but the party is at war with itself. Same thing in Idaho. When we think of the important May 17 primaries, it's all about Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Oregon. But on the far right, the Idaho primary is as important as Democratic primaries are in Oregon right next door. This morning, Politico referred to it as a civil war. There are no moderates involved. This is all about fascists vs hard core conservatives... up and down the ballot.
The gubernatorial contest is between conservative Republican Brad Little, the incumbent, versus full on Nazi (and Lieutenant Governor) Janice McGeachin, who was endorsed-- and then ignored-- by Trump. And that's just one of the vicious races in the all-Republican state, that voted 63.9% to 33.1% for Trump, even worse than the 2016 race, when the state went 59.2 to 27.5% for Trump.
Politico reporters Zach Montellaro and Ximena Bustillo wrote that "The normally invisible secretary of state race illustrates the situation. Two of the three candidates running in the GOP primary-- state Sen. Mary Souza and state Rep. Dorothy Moon-- said they did not believe that President Joe Biden fairly won the 2020 election. Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane, who oversees elections in the state’s most populous county, said that Biden did win the election.'It’s just this national rhetoric, and running to a narrative created by Trump that he started when he knew he was going to lose, and started telling the lie,' said 2018 failed gubernatorial candidate Tommy] Ahlquist, who is critical of the far-right slate of candidates. 'And that filters down to Republicans in our state. And in a state as red as ours, that’s still the narrative because that’s what they do to get elected.'"
There was no issue of election theft in Idaho but long time fascist and former congressman Raúl Labrador is trying to use it as an issue against the five-term Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. His Club for Growth allies have spent $300,000 on the ad above to mislead Idaho's low-info GOP voters into thinking that Trump'ss non-stop whining about the election being stolen had something to do with Idaho and Wasden.
But it’s the governor’s race that will headline the GOP primaries in Idaho, with Little facing down a challenge from McGeachin after years of public feuding between the two, especially over coronavirus policies. Their horn-locking reached farcical levels: More than once, McGeachin used her power as acting governor while Little was out of the state to issue an executive order on the pandemic, which Little would angrily rescind shortly after returning.
Little is one of two sitting Republican governors whom Trump is opposing, joining Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, whose primary against former Sen. David Perdue is later this month. But unlike Kemp-- who had a well-documented public breakup with Trump in 2020, over his unwillingness to help Trump overturn the election results-- Little never publicly drew the former president’s ire.
McGeachin, however, was one of Trump’s earliest supporters. She also has ties to the far right, having appeared at the same conference hosted by a white nationalist that drew condemnation and criticism for Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). (McGeachin accused a Boise TV reporter of trying to play guilt “by association” by raising the conference, saying she didn’t know the organizer before she spoke.)
But unlike some other Republicans Trump has tried to shoo aside, Little does not cut a moderate profile, particularly on social issues. He recently signed a state ban on most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy-- which is being challenged in state court-- while expressing that the enforcement mechanism of the bill could be “unconstitutional and unwise.”
Even so, Little-- a rancher by trade-- tends to hail from the business wing of the party, a distinction at the root of many of the primaries in the state. The rancor stems in part from the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a [Nazi] group that has driven challenges to so-called RINO politicians in the state, including a slew of intra-party legislative battles this year.
“The more right-leaning side of the party led by the Freedom Foundation and others-- they’re certainly not in that alone-- have been emboldened by some of their successes, and so have maybe been more aggressive than what we’ve seen in some prior elections,” said Brent Hill, the former president pro tem of the Idaho state Senate.
The Idaho Freedom Foundation has a stated media policy of not responding to reporters, believing the “legacy news media to be agenda-driven propagandists.”
Allies of Little have projected confidence in his bid. But even so, the Republican Governors Association went on the air in Idaho this week with ads to boost Little. According to AdImpact, the national committee placed a small buy of around $21,000 on Fox News channel in the state that started running earlier this week and goes through the primary.
Luna-- the state party chair who has remained neutral in the primaries-- downplayed any suggestion that the contests would hurt the GOP’s general election prospects in the ruby-red state. The two wings “agree on 80 percent, but we have primaries to debate the 20 percent where we don’t agree, and that’s what they’re doing,” he said.
The race to replace McGeachin sees Scott Bedke, who has been speaker of the state House for the last decade, squaring off against Priscilla Giddings-- a state representative who was censured and stripped of a committee assignment after disclosing the identity of an intern who was raped by a then-state representative. (That lawmaker, Aaron von Ehlinger, resigned in April 2021 and was convicted last week.)
And Rep. Mike Simpson is also facing a primary challenge from a handful of candidates-- including attorney and Idaho Freedom Foundation board member Bryan Smith, whom Simpson beat back in a 2014 challenge-- in a race that has attracted nearly $2 million in TV ad spending in a region where airtime is relatively inexpensive.
Smith-- who has loaned his campaign about $350,000-- has led the way in TV spending, launching ads ripping into the twelve-term congressman. Smith’s most-aired ad calls Simpson a liberal, and attacks him for wanting to “breach dams on the Snake River, taking water from thousands of Idaho farms and families.”
And a super PAC called America Proud PAC has also been laying into Simpson. Their top ad calls him “anti-Trump” and resurfaces his criticism of Trump before the 2016 election, noting that he voted in favor of a Jan. 6 commission in the House. The group has received the lion’s share of its funding from a Boise man named Joe Russell.
But Simpson has not been alone. He has got backup on air from Defending Main Street, a long-running Republican group that backs candidates from the business wing of the party, along with air cover from the American Dental Association. (Simpson was a practicing dentist before coming to Congress.)
In an interview, Simpson compared the Idaho Freedom Foundation to the Freedom Caucus and said that there were “business groups and others” in the state lining up to oppose them.
“There is a lot of division within the Republican Party,” he said. “This really is an important election, I think, in which way the Republican Party is going to turn. Not just in Idaho, but in the country.”
Like in Nebraska, politics in Idaho is a battle between greater and slightly less great evils. Politically, there's nothing good in this state, although I will mention that in 2016 Bernie absolutely trounced Hillary in no uncertain terms, winning 78% of the vote to her 21.2%. He won every county but one in the state (by one vote) and even winning substantially more votes than Trump in Latah and Teton counties. The Democratic Party establishment in the state is pathetic but the Democratic voter base isn't. They need to wrest control back from the corrupt corporate establishment-- the way Nevada Democrats did-- and offer Idaho voters an attractive alternative to fascism.