Is Idaho the “Last Safe Place”? Why are republicans thinking about it

In Idaho, some Republicans see their state as a bastion of conservatism in an increasingly liberal world.

“People flock here because they are looking for the last safe space for the American dream,” said gubernatorial candidate Ed Humphreys during an outdoor campaign launch speech last month at Eagle. “Idaho is the last foxhole, folks.”

Idaho was the westernmost contiguous state to vote for former President Donald Trump in 2020 and it is a long-standing Republican stronghold, with the party controlling the governor’s mansion and both houses of the US legislature. State for a quarter of a century. Still, concerns that Boise will become the next Portland or the political implications of a flood of transplants in California have motivated candidates and voters in the area.

“For some time now, there have been concerns about the growing federal intrusion and that sort of thing, and the left shift of national politics,” said Jaclyn Kettler, a political scientist at Boise State University. “I think the rapid growth is probably contributing in part to that.”

For two consecutive years, Idaho recorded the highest percentage of in-migration to the United States. In both years, newcomers from California led the way, followed by neighbors from Washington, Utah and Oregon. The breakdown by party identification between long-time people and those who have been in the state for 10 years or less, however, is roughly the same, according to the Idaho Public Policy Survey of the. State of Boise.

“A lot of people moving into the state reflect the state’s current political tendencies,” Kettler said. “So it’s not like we’re just bringing Liberals in here from California; lots of conservatives too.

Rather than relocating to the state, a number of voters in neighboring Oregon would rather opt to simply be part of Idaho. Last month, five counties in Oregon voted to consider a proposal to move the state’s borders, strengthening Idaho’s rural and conservative makeup.

“Their values ​​align very, very well with the values ​​of rural Oregon,” said Mike McCarter, lead petitioner for Citizens for Greater Idaho. “You talk about adding half a million people to conservative Idaho values ​​to help support this conservative vote.”

The group’s website has an FAQ for Idaho residents that promises the proposed new state boundaries would prevent “Boise from drowning the state vote in the future” and keep state lawmakers “Attentive to rural problems”. Making such a change would require approval from the Oregon and Idaho legislatures as well as Congress.

So far, seven Republicans have filed documents with the secretary of state’s office to run for governor of Idaho next year, including anti-government activist Ammon Bundy. Bundy was banned from the Idaho Capitol for a year after being arrested there twice in two days last August following a protest, and he did not register to vote in the state, this which he told NBC News as an act of protest. While Bundy lacks a traditional political network and curriculum vitae, he founded the People’s Rights Network last year, a group that staged protests outside the homes of government officials.

Other candidates who filed include incumbent Gov. Brad Little and Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who was elected independently rather than as part of a joint ticket with Little, according to the unusual power structure. executive of Idaho. The two elected officials do not agree. Their clash over COVID-19 public safety measures suggests that the fallout from the virus – which has killed more than 2,000 people in the state as of June 3 and infected nearly 200,000 – could remain a political issue until next year.

Little faced a recall failure in 2020, and his ability to fend off right-wing challengers next year may hinge on the makeup of his party’s primary, as a crowded far-right lane would cannibalize the electoral bloc .

As for McGeachin, a week after announcing her candidacy, she issued an executive order banning mask warrants while Little was out of state at the Republican Governors Association conference in Tennessee and acting governor. . Little rescinded the order upon his return and called McGeachin’s actions a “selfish political coup.” Idaho does not have a statewide mask mandate, but local governments and schools can create theirs.

McGeachin – who made headlines last year when she appeared holding a gun and a Bible in a video that appeared to question whether the pandemic was real – called her candidacy a bulwark against Democrats in Washington during of his campaign announcement speech.

“What we have seen over the past year is unacceptable,” she said. “With the radical left now controlling Congress and the White House, your governor must be on the front line. “

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