Flanked by some high-profile allies — but also by opponents — House Speaker Scott Bedke joined the Republican race for lieutenant governor Thursday.
“I want the office of lieutenant governor to be recognized for its advocacy, for its action, for its accomplishments and for its decency,” Bedke said during a morning campaign kickoff event.
Bedke joins a three-person race to succeed Republican Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin of Idaho Falls, who last week announced her candidacy for governor. Three-term state Rep. Priscilla Giddings of White Bird and former state Rep. Luke Malek of Coeur d’Alene are already running for lieutenant governor on the GOP ticket. Democrats have no announced candidate.
If Thursday’s campaign announcement was any indication, the primary will be a bruising race. The divides within the Idaho GOP were on full display on the second floor of the Statehouse rotunda.
Bedke was introduced by former Gov. Butch Otter, the longest-serving lieutenant governor in state history. Otter praised Bedke’s honesty, preparation and his ability to take “an opposite but not obstinate position.” In a thinly veiled critique of McGeachin — who has publicly clashed with Gov. Brad Little, especially over coronavirus pandemic response — Otter discussed his role working with former Gov. Cecil Andrus, a Democrat.
“There was never any question in my mind who was the governor,” Otter said.
Several prominent legislators also showed up for Bedke’s announcement, including Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star; Assistant Majority Leader Jason Monks, R-Meridian; House Transportation Committee Chairman Joe Palmer, R-Meridian; and Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee Chairman Jim Rice, R-Caldwell. Afterwards, Moyle confirmed that he is endorsing Bedke in the primary.
But as supporters stood behind the podium, holding Bedke campaign signs, a group of Giddings backers carved out space as well. Several of their signs were directed at Bedke: One read, “Good Old Boys,” with a circle and a red slash; another read, “I Smell A RINO,” or “Republican in Name Only.”
Another attendee wore a black top hat reading, “Biden for Bedke.”
During his remarks, Bedke recapped his record as the longest-serving House speaker in state history. He pointed to the Legislature’s record of tax cuts, transportation funding and education spending.
“During my time as speaker, Idaho has consistently increased year-over-year investments in our K-12 schools,” he said. “As a grandfather myself, I have a vested interest in making sure that our children leave Idaho’s schools well-prepared for life.”
Bedke, a fourth-generation cattle rancher from Oakley, also touted his experience negotiating complicated water rights policy. Signaling his priorities as lieutenant governor — and his preference in the GOP gubernatorial primary — Bedke Thursday said he hoped Little would give him a prominent role on water issues.
Bedke is serving his 11th term in the House, second in seniority only to Moyle. Bedke unseated then-Speaker, and current Secretary of State, Lawerence Denney in the 2012 House GOP leadership elections, and has served as speaker ever since.
Since then, Bedke has withstood challenges in other leadership elections — including in 2020, when Idaho Falls Republican Wendy Horman made an unsuccessful bid for speaker. But Bedke is giving up one of the safest legislative seats in the state; he hasn’t faced an opponent, Republican or Democrat, since the 2004 GOP primary.