BOISE — In a big-bucks contest for the state’s lowest-paid statewide office, Idaho’s longest serving House speaker is facing off against perhaps the least-popular member of the House in the GOP primary.
Dissident GOP Rep. Priscilla Giddings of White Bird was censured by her House peers this year for “conduct unbecoming” a member of the House, involving publicizing the identity of a young House intern who accused a state representative of rape; a third of the House signed the ethics complaint against Giddings, and 70% of the House voted to censure her and remove her from one of her committee assignments.
She’s notorious for incidents like her 2017 move as a freshman lawmaker, grinding the House to a halt by forcing an hour-plus full reading of a routine 21-page bill about notaries, along with a rare “call of the House,” which required all missing members to be corralled and brought to the floor. House members were so frustrated that they voted to make Giddings step in for the House’s chief clerk and read the bill herself; it then passed the 70-member House with just seven “no” votes.
Giddings said afterward that she believed she was upholding the Idaho Constitution, “nothing more, nothing less.”
House Speaker Scott Bedke has been elected as the House’s leader five times by his House colleagues. A rancher from Oakley who first entered politics through activism with the Idaho Cattle Association, he’s an ally of current GOP Gov. Brad Little who has won Little’s endorsement in the lieutenant governor race. He’s raised a whopping $704,910 for his run for lieutenant governor, and spent $195,229 thus far; the TV airwaves are buzzing with multiple TV commercials touting him as a conservative who opposes Democratic President Joe Biden and stands for law and order.
Giddings, a former Air Force pilot and Air Force Academy graduate who brought an impressive resume when she was first elected to the House in 2016, has also raised big bucks for her campaign: $539,535, according to the Idaho Secretary of State’s records. She’s spent $238,788 so far, actually outspending Bedke.
“We’re finishing sending 750,000 pieces of mail,” she wrote in an April 28 fundraising email. “Radio, billboards, and online ads are all live. We’re working on last-minute TV ads, if we can raise the money. Thousands of volunteers are knocking doors statewide. We’re launching a million text messages and another million phone calls.”
The current salary for Idaho’s lieutenant governor, a part-time position whose duties include presiding over the Senate and other duties as assigned by the governor, is $48,406; it’ll rise to $52,990 on Jan. 1.
Also on the GOP ballot is Daniel Gasiorowski of Placerville, a retired Kmart manager and Vietnam veteran. He lists his top three issues as eliminating the sales tax on groceries; affordable housing; and keeping property tax in place to fund local governments but freezing taxes at 2010 levels for those who've owned their property since that year.
The winner of the GOP primary will face Boise attorney Terri Pickens Manweiler in November, who is unopposed in the Democratic primary; and Constitution Party candidate Pro-Life, a strawberry farmer who was known as Marvin Richardson before he legally changed his name.
Giddings lists her top three issues as gun rights, opposition to abortion, and ending “fraud and corruption.” She’s denounced Bedke as a “corrupt corporate puppet,” used her ethics sanctions as a campaign fundraising tool while claiming she’s being “censored” rather than “censured,” and touted her bill to ban ballot drop-off boxes that passed the House this year but died in the Senate.
When Bedke announced his candidacy, a small group of Giddings supporters, including members of anti-government activist Ammon Bundy’s “Peoples Rights” group, attended his announcement, trying to shout him down and shove hand-written Giddings signs in front of those held by Bedke supporters.
Bedke lists his top three issues as “defending our Idaho values,” including supporting gun rights and opposing abortion; “responsible government,” including shepherding through the largest income tax cut in state history this year and negotiating major settlements to longstanding water disputes; and “protecting Idaho’s citizens,” touting his endorsement from the Idaho Fraternal Order of Police and his concerns about drugs entering the country across the nation’s southern border with Mexico.
Giddings and Bedke had been scheduled to debate on live statewide television in the “Idaho Debates” on April 18, but Giddings withdrew at the last minute, saying she thought reporters on a panel posing questions to the candidates would be biased. She then sent out a fundraising email headed, “They’re rigging the election with YOUR tax dollars,” charging that Bedke was responsible for the budget for Idaho Public Television, which broadcasts the Idaho Debates, and therefore “has made sure the debate moderators and panelists are going to be in his favor!”
This year’s budget bill for Idaho Public Television passed the House 44-26, the Senate 26-8, and was signed into law by the governor on March 21. Its House sponsor was the co-chair of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, Rep. Rick Youngblood, R-Nampa; the joint committee writes all agency budget bills.
Youngblood, when asked about Giddings, who serves on JFAC, said she wasn’t an active contributor to the work of setting budgets like other members of the joint committee. “Particularly this year, she was either on her phone or on her PC most of the time, doing something else,” he said. “From my perspective, honestly, she was not effective, not a part of the majority in the House.”
While Idaho’s governor and lieutenant governor run separately, the two typically collaborate while in office, even when they’re of different political parties. However, current Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin has departed from that precedent, attempting repeatedly to counter Little’s policies while in office, and is challenging Little in this year’s GOP primary.
Giddings is a McGeachin ally and served as co-chair of a task force McGeachin formed to investigate leftist “indoctrination” in Idaho schools. Giddings called the task force “the kind of proactive leadership Idaho so desperately needs right now.”
Her campaign motto is “Let Freedom Fly.” On her campaign website, she says, “Idahoans don't need another career politician. Whether it's supporting individual liberty, opposing Marxism in our schools, or doing away with the grocery tax, I'm the ONLY candidate in the race with a conservative track record."
Bedke, in an April 25 news release announcing Little’s endorsement, said, “Idahoans want an ambassador for our state and deserve a lieutenant governor who will work cohesively with the Legislature and the governor they elected. I’m running to return integrity and consistent conservative leadership back to the lieutenant governor’s office.”