Editor’s note: This is the next in a series on contested races and contests on Idaho’s November general election ballot.
BOISE — Idaho’s lieutenant governor post is a part-time position, but the lieutenant governor is also the person next in line to be governor, presides over the Senate, and takes on other official duties as delegated by the governor.
On the November ballot, three candidates are running for the position: Current House Speaker Scott Bedke, a Republican rancher from Oakley; Boise attorney Terri Pickens Manweiler, a former Republican and certified mediator who is running as a Democrat; and “Pro-Life,” an organic strawberry farmer and frequent candidate for office who legally changed his name from Marvin Richardson in 2006 and is running on the Constitution Party ticket.
Current Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, a Republican who nevertheless clashed repeatedly with current GOP Gov. Brad Little, ran unsuccessfully against Little in the May primary rather than seek re-election. All three candidates said they wouldn’t follow McGeachin’s example if elected.
“I will work well with whomever is the next governor. It’s too important to not do that,” Bedke said. “The citizens of Idaho expect us to work together. And they don’t have to worry about me in that area at all.”
Bedke said that’s true regardless of who is elected governor. But he said, “I think the smart money is on Brad Little. And I will work well with Gov. Little. I have worked well with Gov. Little. Our experience together started before either one of us were in elective office, and we were representatives of the livestock industry. That’s not to say we have agreed on every detail. But we have worked together well and we have worked for the common good.”
Pickens Manweiler said a shift toward extremism in Idaho – “with our present lieutenant governor, a really high-profile person, pushing out the nonsense from the office of the lieutenant governor” – was what prompted her to run. “That’s why I chose lieutenant governor,” she said. “Since I announced a year ago, it has gotten exponentially worse, which I didn’t think it could, but it did. Idaho is absolutely just too great to have hate.”
She said one of her top priorities if elected is to “restore that statesmanship” between Idaho’s governor and lieutenant governor, and cited the working relationship between then-Gov. Cecil Andrus, a Democrat, and then-Lt. Gov. Butch Otter, a Republican, in the 1980s and 1990s.
“I have met Gov. Little. My husband and I helped on his 2018 primary,” Pickens Manweiler said. “And I respect him. I believe he respects me. … I think he and I have the same idea of what it is to be an Idahoan. We have shared values about how this state should be viewed nationally. I know that we have become a national embarrassment on so many levels, and that reflects poorly on him. And whatever I can do to help restore that national stature for this state, as opposed to constantly being on the front page of the Washington Post for the nonsense out of the lieutenant governor’s office, I think will help.”
McGeachin made national headlines by repeatedly attempting to counter Little’s policies while he was briefly out of state with her own executive orders, which he immediately and retroactively rescinded.
Pro-Life said, “When they were out of town, I wouldn’t do what Janice McGeachin did. I’d try to help them as much as I could within my conscience. If they were doing something unconscionable, I wouldn’t be their buddy.” He also said he’s a big supporter of independent Ammon Bundy, who’s challenging Little. “That’d be nice to be Ammon Bundy’s lieutenant governor,” he said.
Here’s a look at the three candidates in the race:
Bedke, 64, is the longest-serving House speaker in state history, having been elected by to the leadership post five times. He’s served in the Idaho House for 22 years, and previously served two terms on the Oakley City Council. “I am a tested leader in the state and have been for some time now,” he said. “I bring a pragmatic, common-sense approach to government.”
He cited his legislative experience working on state budgets in all topic areas, and serving on the transportation, resources and tax committees. “I think the lieutenant governor needs to have experience and knowledge in each one of those areas, because those are the areas that make Idaho tick and make Idaho work,” Bedke said. “I’ve been a policy maker in each of those areas, and I don’t need on-the-job training.”
He lists his top three issues in the race as “setting prudent, austere budgets and living within the taxpayers’ means always;” investing in infrastructure as the state grows, including water, roads and education; and protecting Idaho’s water and natiural resources, including protecting state sovereignty over water rights from federal intrusion. “I don’t want to wake up 10 years from now and wonder where our Idaho went,” he said.
A cattle rancher, Bedke holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Brigham Young University and has worked on his family’s ranch and farm in eastern Idaho since he graduated from college. He was recently elected president of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
If elected, he said, “I want to keep Idaho on the positive trajectory that it’s on now. I want Idaho to continue to be a place where our kids can get well-educated, and then come back to meaningful jobs and lives in the state. And as the grandfather of 16, that’s very important to me.”
“I am vested in Idaho’s success,” he said. “I want all the opportunities that were available to me, and my great-grandfather, grandfather, father, to be available to my grandkids and their kids.”
“So that means that we have to have an education system, starting in the primary grades up through the colleges and the universities, that prepares our young people for whatever they choose,” Bedke said. “And then that we can have a business atmosphere where they can get jobs commensurate with their education. Having a great education system available starts with having a quality, well-paid, motivated teacher in every classroom. And I think we need to make the investments in our system to accomplish that.”
“We live in the best state in the nation to work and to raise a family and to recreate,” Bedke said. “And I’m committed to seeing that continue in the future.”
“Obviously, we’ve been, at least on some level, discovered,” he said, “so there is going to be increased competition for every gallon of water in our rivers, every lane-mile on our roads, every classroom desk, every building, etc. So we’ve got to plan appropriately and we’ve got to make appropriate investments back into our basic infrastructure.”
Pickens Manweiler, 50, is a Pocatello native who started her legal career as the Nez Perce County public defender, then moved to Boise in 1999, where she’s been a practicing civil trial attorney for more than two decades and started her own firm in 2008. This is her first run for public office.
A lifelong Republican, “I feel like the party left me when they nominated Trump” in 2016, she said. She remained a Republican through 2018, backing Little over Raul Labrador in that year’s GOP primary, but also became increasingly active on women’s issues, joining the board of Planned Parenthood in 2017 after Donald Trump’s election as president, “because I knew even to protect the right to birth control in Idaho was going to be a challenge. And fast-forward, I was right,” she said.
After the 2020 election, she said, “I realized that the Republican Party no longer shared my values, and I couldn’t put an R behind my name,” because the party was so invested in denying the election results. “That’s nationally, it’s not just in Idaho,” she said. “It’s not based in reality, and I can’t be a member of a party that is not based in reality.”
She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Southern California and a law degree from the University of Idaho College of Law. She lists her top three issues as funding education; “restoring fundamental freedoms to women and pregnant people;” and “preserving and protecting our public lands.”
As the mother of a daughter who is gay, and “also an 18-year-old with reproductive organs,” Pickens Manweiler said, “Idaho became an intolerable place for my 18-year-old, and I need to fix that. … She will be leaving in October to go to college. I don’t know if I’ll get her back.”
She decried Idaho’s abortion “trigger” law that “doesn’t even account for the health of the woman,” along with “bills that target transgender kids” and last year’s unsuccessful legislation seeking to criminalize librarians who check out “harmful” materials to minors. All, she said, have fed an atmosphere of “culture wars” conducive to extremism, rather than addressing the real issues facing the state.
“Basically, the GOP supermajority hasn’t done us any favors,” Pickens Manweiler said. “They’re not answering the problems of Idahoans, and they’re putting their head in the sand and allowing hate to just fester in the state. And by refusing to act, refusing to stand up and refusing to talk about this, acting like it doesn’t exist, it’s just getting worse.”
“My opponent, in particular, as the speaker of the House had absolutely every opportunity to shut down some of the really horrible culture war bills that have rocked this state and allowed the really loud minority to create an environment of hate and fear in Idaho,” she said. “A bunch of women are really angry, and they’re going to hold him accountable for that. They’re going to put someone in who has spent the past six or seven years trying to preserve and protect our civil liberties and our fundamental freedoms, instead of taking them away.”
Pickens Manweiler said if elected, she hopes to “use the lieutenant governor’s office as a resource conduit for researching bills,” to provide factual reports to lawmakers and the public to counter “misinformation or disinformation.” She said, “I want to make sure that I’m doing everything I can to educate not just those people voting on the bill, but the general population of Idaho on what’s actually happening.”
Pro-Life, 81, is making his 11th run for office, having run unsuccessfully for everything from fire commissioner to governor to Congress. His wife, Kirsten, is making her 9th run for the state Legislature. “The reason that my wife and I run is to make people accountable for hearing the truth – now, of course, that’s the truth according to us,” he said. “So our motive for running is not to win. … We’ll run till we’re dead.”
In 2020, he received 2.2% of the vote as a Constitution Party candidate for Congress in Idaho’s District 2.
An organic strawberry farmer from Letha, which is between Emmett and New Plymouth, Pro-Life holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and accounting from BYU. He lists his top three issues as “establishing legal personhood for the unborn child when sperm meets egg;” eliminating all vaccinations; and “reduction and elimination of public education.”
Asked why he wants to eliminate public education, he said, “Because it’s brought us to the point that we’re at now. We have deteriorated morals.”
For years, Pro-Life has stood on street corners holding up pictures of fetuses as part of his campaign against abortion; he still does that. He also attends events such as gay pride parades and 9/11 commemorations with protest signs.
If elected, he said he’d use the lieutenant governor’s “bully pulpit” to speak out. “I would be big-time about it,” he said. “I’d probably go to whatever church or organization would allow me on a weekly basis throughout the whole state, and … I’d be saying to the young people, ‘Hey, don’t kiss until after you’re married. And don’t eat corrupted food. Eat organically. And don’t accept socialism.’”
The election is Nov. 8.