Idaho Governor Brad Little repealed an executive order that prohibits the enforcement of mask mandates in the state, calling it "an irresponsible, self-serving political stunt," according to a statement the Republican released Friday. The face mask ban was signed by Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin, also a Republican, while Little was out of town.
"An executive order that was issued while I was out of state this week runs contrary to a basic conservative principle – the government closest to the people governs best," said Little said in his statement. "I do not like petty politics. I do not like political stunts over the rule of law."
In McGeachin's order, political subdivisions like public schools would be prohibited in Idaho from mandating face masks. It followed a similar executive order in Texas which has barred most government entities from requiring face masks.
"I firmly believe that you have the right to make your own decisions about masks, vaccines, and how to raise your children," she wrote on her website Thursday. "You don't need the government to tell you what to do."
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. #idpol pic.twitter.com/Nmb6DX9v6X— Janice McGeachin (@JaniceMcGeachin) May 27, 2021
In response to Little rescinding her executive order, McGeachin said that the governor "chose to revoke your personal freedom," in a statement posted to social media.
"It is your God-given right to make your own health decisions, and no state, city, or school district ever has the authority to violate your unalienable rights," she wrote Friday. "I remain undeterred and unwavering in my commitment to defend your rights and freedoms against all who would violate them."
Lieutenant governors can stand in as acting governor when the governor is unable to serve, including when they are out of the state.
Little was away meeting with other Republican governors at the time and McGeachin did not brief him on the order ahead of time, according to CBS affiliate Idaho News.
"Taking the earliest opportunity to act solitarily on a highly politicized, polarizing issue without conferring with local jurisdictions, legislators, and the sitting Governor is, simply put, an abuse of power," Little said. "This kind of over-the-top executive action amounts to tyranny – something we all oppose."
The Republican governor noted he has opposed a statewide mask mandate throughout the pandemic because he doesn't believe "top-down mandates change behavior the way personal choice does." He said, however, that when it came to masks, he "didn't undermine separately elected officials who, under Idaho law, are given authorities to take measures they believe will protect the health and safety of the people they serve."
The executive order McGeachin issued "unilaterally and unlawfully takes away authorities given to the state's mayors, local school board trustees, and others," he said.
McGeachin has been the state's lieutenant governor since 2018 and is the first woman in the position. Last week she announced that she will run to become Idaho's next governor in the state's Republican primary in 2022.
"I am not running for governor to be popular or because it is easy," she says on her website. "This job is hard work and it requires making difficult decisions that aren't always appreciated."
McGeachin has asked for donations on her website in support of her executive order, claiming "it is really YOU who the radical left wants to silence," and that "they hate our conservative values, our individual rights, and our unwillingness to bow down to the federal government."
Little has not yet said if he will seek a second term. A re-election race would pit him against McGeachin in the Republican primary.