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Idaho Lt. Gov. fills in while governor out of state, issues executive order banning mask mandates

Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin (R)/Image source: Idaho Official Government Website

When Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) was out of state this week, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin (R) became acting governor in Little's absence and took the opportunity to issue an executive order banning mask mandates in the state, including those imposed by local governments.

What are the details?

Gov. Little left the state to attend the Republican Governors Association conference in Nashville, Tennessee, earlier in the week, and was due back in Idaho on Thursday evening. But before he could make it back home, the lieutenant governor decided to take full advantage of her brief elevated position of authority.

McGeachin tweeted Thursday, "Today, as acting Governor of the State of Idaho, I signed an Executive Order to protect the rights and liberties of individuals and businesses by prohibiting the state and its political subdivisions — including public schools — from imposing mask mandates in our state."

A spokesperson for Little told the Idaho Statesman, "The Lt. Gov. did not make Governor Little aware of her executive order ahead of time."

The Associated Press reported that just last week, McGeachin announced that she was running for governor herself. Little has not yet announced whether he will run for a second term, but if he does, the incumbent would face a GOP primary challenge from McGeachin.

The outlet reported that "McGeachin is on the far right of the political spectrum in the conservative state, and her order could bolster her support as a candidate for governor."

"I've been listening to people all across the state with the concern about, especially, why are little kids being forced to wear masks in school," McGeachin told the AP in an interview. "My oath to the Constitution is to protect those rights and freedoms of the individual, and I've never supported any type of a mandate on the individual, especially when it comes to health care choices."

While some localities and school districts in Idaho issued mask orders during the coronavirus pandemic, Little never issued a statewide mask mandate. Given that fact, another fellow Republican, Idaho state House Speaker Scott Bedke, accused McGeachin of issuing the order for show.

"There were no statewide mask mandates," Bedke told the Statesman. "So what you have here is a solution in search of a problem, and it's political theater."

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