Little refuses to debate ahead of GOP primary

(UPDATED, 5:39 p.m., with statements from McGeachin and Humphreys.)

Gov. Brad Little is refusing to debate challengers in the runup to the May 17 Republican primary.

Little has turned down two debates: one that would have aired on Idaho Public Television, and a second hosted by KTVB in Boise.

The Idaho Debates — the partnership that sponsors the Idaho Public Television debates — announced the news late Friday afternoon. In a statement Friday, the Little campaign described  the incumbent’s four-year record as “non-debatable.”

“Brad Little is hands-down the most accessible governor in Idaho history. He has made it a priority to meet with Idaho families, businesses, and members of the press. Idahoans know what Gov. Little stands for,” the campaign said.

However, Little is the first sitting governor in more than 30 years to refuse to take part in the Idaho Debates.

“Idaho Public Television reaches nearly every household in the state, and we know from past comments that many Republican primary voters rely on debates to inform their decisions at the ballot box,” said Idaho Public Television reporter and “Idaho Reports” host Melissa Davlin, the moderator of the Idaho Debates.

The Idaho Public Television gubernatorial debate might still take place — even without Little. Two other Republicans, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin and Eagle businessman Ed Humphreys, had met the debates’ criteria for staging an active campaign, and had agreed to participate. But those commitments were made before Little officially backed out.

The Idaho Debates partnership will host debates featuring multiple candidates.

McGeachin was quick to criticize Little Friday afternoon.

“(Idaho Public Television) has confirmed it is not a scheduling conflict, rather (Little) just doesn’t want to debate,” McGeachin said in a tweet. “Once again, he is showing his elitist attitude by refusing to address his record.”

Humphreys blasted Little ahead of the announcement, in a Thursday evening statement criticizing his reluctance to debate.

“Any elected officials who are truly acting in citizens’ best interest should be proud of their accomplishments and be willing to stand by them,” he said. “I hope that the governor will participate in the electoral process in a more meaningful way than 30-second ads that are paid for by multinational corporations. It’s time to answer some fair questions!”

Little is the third statewide candidate this week to refuse to participate in debates ahead of the GOP primary.

Earlier Friday, state Rep. Priscilla Giddings of White Bird withdrew from a lieutenant governor’s candidate debate with House Speaker Scott Bedke of Oakley. Giddings said she would not participate unless she had a list in advance of reporters on the debate panel. That debate, originally scheduled for Monday, has now been canceled.

On Monday, U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson refused to take part in an Idaho Public Television debate with his Republican challenger, Idaho Falls attorney Bryan Smith.

A partnership between the Idaho Press Club, Idaho Public Television, the League of Women Voters of Idaho and the state’s public universities, the Idaho Debates have three debates scheduled later this month.

The Republican candidates for attorney general will square off Tuesday. The GOP candidates for superintendent of public instruction will appear on April 25. The Republicans vying for secretary of state will debate on April 26.

Each debate will air at 8 p.m. MDT.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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