Hat’s off to the five good people who are running for lieutenant governor.
The race hasn’t gotten a lot of respect next to the higher-profile races for governor and First District Congress. But the candidates certainly deserve respect. It takes fortitude, time and money to run for a statewide office – and one that has no guarantee of being more than a part-time job. With little media coverage or money for advertising, it’s almost impossible to gain significant name recognition throughout the state.
All five of the candidates have different motivations for putting themselves through this wringer. But it’s my impression that all think they can make a difference in helping Idaho be a better state.
“As I traveled the state, I hit 205 stops – all 200 incorporated cities and the tribe reservations and have met thousands of Idahoans who have the same concerns and dreams that I have,” said State Rep. Kelley Packer of McCammon in a recent televised debate among the candidates.
State Sen. Marv Hagedorn of Meridian, Sen. Bob Nonini of Coeur d’Alene, former Rep. Janice McGeachin and former state Republican Party chair Steve Yates of Idaho Falls went through similar exercises in their campaigns. The ultimate winner will be a heartbeat (or a presidential appointment) away from the governor’s chair. But that’s not something that stays at the forefront of anyone’s mind – especially with the voters.
The lieutenant governor’s primary job is to preside over the state Senate, and all five candidates can hold a gavel. The second duty is to serve as acting governor while the “real” governor is out of town, which also is a routine task. State government manages to function well when the boss is out of town for a few days.
The third part of the job description – doing what the governor prescribes – is by far the most important. Duties could include everything from doing nothing to leading Idaho delegations on international trade missions, depending on the working relationship between the governor and lieutenant governor.
It would be better if the nominee for governor could name his/her candidate for lieutenant governor. That could allow a lieutenant governor to do a “real” job, such as heading the Department of Commerce. But the Idaho Constitution says that elections to the two offices must be separate, so we’re stuck with what we have.
The three main Republican gubernatorial candidates have been silent on their top picks for lieutenant governor, and those running for lieutenant governor have mostly been neutral about who they want at the top of the ticket. Nonini has endorsed Lt. Gov. Brad Little, but says he could work with the other two.
To voters, compatibility is the only relevant issue in the race – the one factor that keeps this from being a popularity contest. So here are some things to think about.
If you’re supporting Tommy Ahlquist, then give Yates the nod for the second seat. Neither Ahlquist nor Yates have served in an elected office, but both are relatively young men and sharp. Hagedorn and Packer probably would be acceptable runner-up choices for Ahlquist; Nonini and McGeachin would not.
Yates also would be the best fit for Little. Yates, who rescued the state GOP from chaos in 2014, has plenty of party connection and enough of an outsider’s viewpoint that would be beneficial to Little. Hagedorn, Nonini and Packer would be acceptable alternatives. McGeachin, who has aligned herself with the Idaho Freedom Foundation and legislators who view Little as a flaming liberal, would not be a good choice for Little.
But McGeachin sides with Labrador on many issues, and she’d probably do well promoting his agenda. Hagedorn and Nonini, two of Labrador’s former House colleagues, would be acceptable choices. Labrador and Yates have a cordial relationship, but I’m not sure how enthusiastic Yates would be in promoting Labrador’s agenda. Packer, who is no fan of the Idaho Freedom Foundation or “liberty” legislators, wouldn’t be much use to Labrador.
It would have been nice if the gubernatorial candidates provided more guidance on the lieutenant governor’s race, to help voters sort through this jungle primary race. But since all three stayed mum, they’ll just have to live with what the voters give them.