Former Idaho Falls State Rep. Janice McGeachin is toying with the idea of challenging Second District U.S. Representative Mike Simpson in next year’s May GOP primary.
McGeachin represented the Idaho Falls area for 10 years in the Idaho House. Before stepping down in 2013, she was chair of the House Health & Welfare Committee. She currently is an owner of the Celt, a recently remodeled bar/food establishment in downtown Idaho Falls (the food is great!).
I’ve heard recently from multiple sources of her interest in challenging Simpson. I left a message for her, but did not receive a call back.
But, I am seeing clear signs of potential interest.
Coeur d’ Alene resident Bjorn Handeen created a Facebook group on Oct. 5 entitled “Draft Janet McGeachin for CD2”. It can be viewed here. As of Nov. 2 (in less than a month) 472 people had urged McGeachin to throw her hat in the ring.
Bjorn argues that Idaho voters tend to elect those with legislative experience, like McGeachin, to Congress. On Oct. 21 he wrote: “Much has been said recently about the ‘House Freedom Caucus’, and it is my sincere hope that soon a newly-elected U.S. Rep. Janice McGeachin will stand in their ranks.”
McGeachin has not stayed completely aloof from this effort. She wrote on the group Facebook page on Oct. 9: “Running for any public office takes a considerable amount of thought, preparation, and support. Please join me in praying for our country, that God will continue to bless our nation and that we will recognize what WE need to do to receive that blessing.”
On Oct. 15, she replied to a posting by Bjorn about the difficulty of pronouncing legislative names as follows: “It's OK Bjorn I just need to work harder on my name recognition. ‘Vote McGee-in and 'him' out.’” The “him” clearly refers to Congressman Simpson.
She also told Bill Colley, a conservative broadcaster with 1310 KLIX, a Twin Falls radio station, that she hasn’t yet made up her mind about challenging Simpson but. You can review his write-up (posted on 10/27) here.
McGeachin has an engaging personality and has strong ties to many Idaho conservatives. She is a solid public speaker but has never run a major race.
In the Idaho Legislature, she was a fierce opponent of Obamacare. In 2012, she distributed photocopies of the massive Affordable Health Care Act to members of the House Health & Welfare Committee. She often spoke in Idaho against the Act.
McGeachin was also a strong advocate of allowing midwives to deliver newborns and backed a controversial Arizona law that required state law enforcement officers to determine legal status when there was a reasonable suspicion of illegal immigration status.
In 2010, she backed an effort to repeal the 17th Amendment which allows for direct election of U.S. Senators by voters, rather than state legislatures.
McGeachin could be a bit unpredictable. She opposed HB 404, a bill popular with her colleagues, directed at Occupy Boise for camping around the State Capitol (the measure was overturned by the courts).
She also has clashed with Gov. Otter, backing former State Sen. Russ Fulcher in the 2014 primary over Otter. Her anti-Otter rhetoric has often been harsh. On her Facebook page she labeled Otter “The Crook of Idaho,” stating, “[m]aybe he'll resign early, ride off into the sunset with Miss Lori, and we can conduct another election.” Commenting on the Idaho Education Network issues, she concluded, “Otter should go to jail this is so wrong.”
I presume what is causing her to pause and reflect is the simple fact that Congressman Simpson is not any sort of pushover. In his 2014 campaign, he raised an impressive $2,463,922, ran an aggressive campaign and soundly beat well-funded GOP primary challenger Bryan Smith 61.6% to 38.4%. The margin was over 18,000 votes. Simpson clobbered Smith in Bonneville County (Idaho Falls area) 6,867 votes to 4,274. McGeachin could not count on her home base.
As of Sept. 30, 2015, Simpson reported cash-on-hand of only $208,116, but he has the ability to quickly boost that number. He is the current the Chairman of the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees the budget for the Department of Energy (critical to the future of the Idaho National Laboratory). He was closely linked to former Speaker John Boehner and presumably has strong ties to new House Speaker Paul Ryan.
In 2012, McGeachin considered a last-minute run against Simpson but concluded that an announcement in February of that year was too late to run a viable race.
If she decides to go forward, expect an announcement before the end of this year.