Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin has officially launched her campaign for governor.

McGeachin announced her entry into the race for the 2022 Republican gubernatorial nomination Wednesday morning during an event at the Downtown Event Center in her hometown of Idaho Falls. During her initial campaign speech, McGeachin touted her conservative track record and pitched herself as an advocate for citizens who have felt unrepresented in the state government.

“Idahoans are tired of being ignored, shut out of the process, declared nonessential and having their freedoms limited,” McGeachin said.

The speech launching her campaign was filled with direct and indirect criticisms of Gov. Brad Little. McGeachin and other speakers at the event repeatedly questioned the actions taken by the state over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, from the initial order to close nonessential businesses to the amount of federal funding the state has accepted.

“Some people that we have entrusted with positions of leadership caved to fear and compromised principles,” McGeachin said. “We cannot forget the decisions that were made, the damage that was done and the lessons we have learned from the last year.”

Later in her speech, McGeachin tore up a copy of an agreement between Idaho and the Federal Emergency Management Agency over federal operations in the state during the pandemic.

McGeachin will run against Little and any other Republicans who enter the race for the May 2022 primaries. If elected, McGeachin would become the first female governor in state history.

The announcement was preceded by a series of supportive speeches. Derek Emery, a former inmate who has become a substance abuse recovery coach and advocate, talked about how well McGeachin has worked on behalf of Idahoans with criminal records. Bill Ayzin, owner of Wealth of Health Natural Market, endorsed the work she had done for local businesses over the last year.

McGeachin was also endorsed by Don Ahern, a Nevada businessman and multimillionaire who recently became the finance chairman for the Nevada Republican Party. Ahern said he was heading to a meeting with Trump later this week and that he might pursue an endorsement from the former president for McGeachin.

“McGeachin is a great woman with all of the good parts of Trump,” Ahern said.

McGeachin attended a Trump campaign rally in Henderson, Nevada, that Ahern organized in September. The event later received a $3,000 fine from the city of Henderson for violating local COVID-19 restrictions. In November, McGeachin lobbied for the state’s Coronavirus Financial Advisory Committee to purchase walk-through disinfectant cubes and other cleaning equipment made by one of Ahern’s businesses, Xtreme Manufacturing. (Multiple studies have found technology ineffective, according to an Idaho Press report.)

About an hour after officially announcing her intent to run, Idaho Education Association President Layne McInelly released a statement that her campaign should be met with “distrust” by supporters of public education.

“She does not and will not prioritize policies that benefit public education. In fact, there is no ambiguity in her track record — she consistently attempts to undermine education funding and degrade our dedicated educators,” McInelly wrote.

McGeachin’s speech Wednesday morning showed no intent to shy away from that conversation. She endorsed efforts to diversify career-technical education and the work schools can do to prepare students for jobs, while rallying against the perceived threats of liberal indoctrination in Idaho schools.

“I am someone who runs on my record, not from it,” McGeachin said.

McGeachin graduated from Skyline High School. She and her husband Jim own and operate two businesses in Idaho Falls, Idaho Transmission Warehouse and the Celt Pub & Grill, located two blocks from where she made her campaign announcement.

McGeachin represented the city in the Idaho House of Representatives between 2002 and 2012. During her speech Wednesday, McGeachin said she had intended to leave politics at that point before being reinvigorated by Donald Trump’s success during the 2016 election.

McGeachin traveled to the Idaho State Capitol in Boise and Candlelight Christian Fellowship in Coeur d’Alene later on Wednesday for similar events with media outlets and supporters.

The McGeachin campaign team briefly launched a website Tuesday outlining her intent to run for governor. The site was briefly taken down for a few hours after a media inquiry but has relaunched at JaniceforIdaho.com.

Brennen is the main education reporter for the Post Register. Contact him with news tips at 208-542-6711.

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