The race for Idaho’s next lieutenant governor hinges on a clash between a longtime Republican legislative leader who pledged to work closely with the governor and Idaho Legislature, and a Democratic trial attorney who says she’s running to shake up Idaho government, which she believes has moved too far to the right.
Speaker of the Idaho House of Representatives Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, and attorney Terri Pickens Manweiler, D-Boise, are running to succeed outgoing Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, the Idaho Falls Republican who lost her gubernatorial bid in May.
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Pro-Life — a strawberry farmer known as Marvin Richardson before changing his name — is also running for lieutenant governor. Pro-Life, who runs for a different office every two years, said on his campaign website he would push to have all federally owned lands in Idaho transferred to the state, to have legal personhood defined as beginning at fertilization and to audit the federal reserve. Pro-Life has also called for banning openly LGBTQ+ people from serving in the United States miltary and said that no faithful Muslim can become a U.S. citizen.
Pro-Life most recently ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2020, winning 2.2% of the vote and finishing in third place in the race that U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, won.
Pro-Life lives in Emmett with his wife, Kirsten Faith Richardson.
Terri Pickens Manweiler says she is fighting to combat extremism
Pickens Manweiler is a trial attorney and founding partner of the firm Pickens Law in Boise. She has served on the board for Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana and Kentucky for more than five years.
Pickens Manweiler has been campaigning for lieutenant governor since August 2021. She said her top priorities are pushing for LGBTQ+ rights, fighting for women’s rights, reproductive health care rights, supporting public education, protecting Idaho’s public lands and pushing back against extremism and the far right.
She and her husband, Mark, live in Boise and have two children. Pickens Manweiler’s daughter is gay, and Pickens Manweiler blames Bedke and the Idaho Legislature for failing to add the words “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to the Idaho Human Rights Act. Manweiler said she testified in favor of adding those words as far back as 2014.
“He never allowed it to get to the floor,” Manweiler said. “That’s on him. When I talk about my daughter’s right to not be fired for who she is, I hold him responsible, and I hold the majority of the GOP responsible for not pressuring him.”
Although the lieutenant governor only gets to vote on legislation if the Idaho Senate is tied, Pickens Manweiler said she would use the office as a platform and an example for the state. She would use her office to research legislation that is coming up for a vote, share that information with the public and combat legislative disinformation and misinformation.
“I will be able to stand up there with the gavel and I will be able to use my voice on the Senate floor and also to the general public,” Pickens Manweiler said.
By way of example, Pickens Manweiler said McGeachin demonstrated the power of the office of lieutenant governor by pushing the state to the right politically.
“That platform, as we have seen used for bad, can also be used for good,” Pickens Manweiler said.
Pickens Manweiler ran unopposed in the Democrats’ May primary election. She said she is confident she can defeat Bedke — because of an increase in young women who have registered to vote since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June and because of what she describes as disgust among Idahoans who are concerned the Republican Party has pushed too far to the extreme right politically.
No Democrat has been elected to statewide office in Idaho in 20 years.
Pickens Manweiler said that, as the Idaho House of Representatives’ highest ranking leader, Bedke is responsible for its shift to the right and the laws legislators pass.
“In every single county I’ve been to, and I’ve been to 40, people said the same thing: ‘Stop the crazy. We have to stop the shift to the far right,’” Manweiler said.
“We have a supermajority in the GOP that has shifted so far right that they are passing absolute garbage legislation, and it’s an embarrassment to the people here in the middle of the road who love this state for what it is, not for what the far right wants it to be,” Manweiler added.
Scott Bedke says he has the experience to do the job
A rancher from Oakley whose family has been ranching there since 1870, Bedke is the longest serving speaker of the Idaho House in state history. Members of the Idaho House of Representatives elected him to the leadership post before the 2013 legislative session. Overall, Bedke has served 11 two-year terms in the Idaho House.
He said he would bring the same leadership and approach to the lieutenant governor’s office that he did in the Legislature, where the state amassed a record budget surplus, issued multiple income tax cuts and rebates and increased education funding.
“What you’ve seen as speaker of the House is what you will see as lieutenant governor: someone who is very passionate about Idaho and its success,” Bedke said.
Bedke said his policy experience is particularly strong on water and land management issues, as well as tax policy, transportation funding and education.
When it comes to education funding, Bedke said he used his legislative experience to work as a bridge between the governor’s office and the Idaho Legislature to follow up on implementing the $410 million in education funding approved during the Sept. 1 special session. Bedke said he supports using the in-demand careers component of the money to expand trade school and career-technical education opportunities. He supports using the $330 million component of the public school funding allocation to pay for moving all public school teachers onto the state’s health insurance program and keeping educators’ salaries competitive enough to attract and retain good teachers.
“Every classroom has got to have a well prepared, quality teacher and part of that is being paid adequately,” Bedke said.
Bedke said he would be an ally of Gov. Brad Little, if Little is re-elected, and would restore a collaborative relationship between the governor’s office and lieutenant governor’s office that became strained between McGeachin and Little.
Bedke would also work with the governor and the 40-or-more new legislators who will be sworn in for the 2023 session following historic turnover in the Idaho Legislature.
“A lot of people are going to be brand new and coming into the system they are not going to be familiar with, and I can help with that,” Bedke said.
“The role is not to create controversy,” Bedke added. “I would restore dignity to the office and restore the collaborative nature to the office. I will be in the room ahead of the decisions and a voice in that room. But I understand the difference between the No. 1 role and the No. 2 role.”
Bedke secured the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor after defeating Rep. Prisiclla Giddings, R-White Bird, and Daniel Gasiorowski in the May 17 primary election.
Bedke and his wife, Sarah, live in Oakley and raised four children.
Idaho’s lieutenant governor candidates differ on abortion views
Abortion is one of several issues where the candidates differ.
Bedke is an anti-abortion conservative. He voted in favor of Senate Bill 1385, the 2020 trigger law that bans almost all abortions in Idaho following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Bedke also voted for Senate Bill 1309, the 2022 law that gives family members the right to sue the medical professional who performs an abortion.
“I am very supportive of the U.S. Supreme Court recognizing that this is a policy decision and policy decisions should be made at the state level,” Bedke said in an interview with the Sun. “On abortion my track record is clear. I am pro-life. But I think there are some very narrow and rare exceptions — if it involves the life of the mother or if it involves rape or incest.”
When asked about contraception, he said, “when it comes to contraception, the government should stay out of it.”
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Pickens Manweiler supports abortion rights and opposes the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
“We lost a fundamental right to abortion in Idaho, which means women don’t have bodily autonomy,” Pickens Manweiler said.
Pickens Manweiler said she fears the Republican-controlled Legislature will push to restrict more rights, including trying to outlaw contraception or the Plan B pill and trying to remove exemptions to the abortion ban.
“Where we are heading is (the Legislature) is going for no exceptions,” Manweiler said.
What does Idaho’s lieutenant governor do?
In Idaho, the lieutenant governor is a part-time position with limited responsibilities. According to the Idaho Constitution, the lieutenant governor serves as president of the Idaho Senate, but votes only to break a tie. The Idaho Constitution also states the lieutenant governor serves as acting governor “in case of the failure to qualify, the impeachment, or conviction of treason, felony, or other infamous crime of the governor, or his death, removal from office, resignation, absence from the state, or inability to discharge the powers and duties of his office…”
Under Idaho law, in the case of the governor’s death, resignation or permanent removal from office, the lieutenant governor becomes governor for the remainder of the term.
By law, the lieutenant governor’s salary is set at 35% of the governor’s salary. For 2023, the governor will earn $151,400, making the lieutenant governor’s salary $52,990.
Like other statewide offices, the lieutenant governor’s term runs for four years.
Despite its limited official responsibilities, the office of lieutenant governor has served as a launching pad for several Idaho officials who held the post and then went on to run for higher office. Since 1977, five former Idaho lieutenant governors have gone on to serve as governor — Brad Little, Jim Risch, Butch Otter, Phil Batt and John Evans.
Unlike the president and vice president, the governor and lieutenant governor in Idaho are elected separately and not as part of a single ticket. That doesn’t mean the Republicans in Idaho’s top executive posts have always seen eye-to-eye. Little and McGeachin are both longtime members of the Idaho GOP, but their clashes in recent years made national headlines.
Idaho’s voters have chosen Republicans for both offices since the 1980s and 1990s, when Idaho had Democratic governors and Republican lieutenant governors.
Election Day is set for Nov. 8, when polls across Idaho will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time for in-person voting. Absentee voting and early voting is already underway in Idaho. Registered voters have until Friday, Oct. 28, to request an absentee ballot. Interested voters who are not yet registered to vote may register at the polls on Election Day.