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Sunday, March 29, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Idaho lieutenant governor hopefuls Collum, McGeachin clash in their only debate

Kristin Collum and Janice McGeachin, the Democratic and Republican candidates for Lieutenant Governor of Idaho, face off in the “Idaho Debates” broadcast live from the studios of Idaho Public Television on Wednesday. (Brian Myrick / Idaho Press)
Kristin Collum and Janice McGeachin, the Democratic and Republican candidates for Lieutenant Governor of Idaho, face off in the “Idaho Debates” broadcast live from the studios of Idaho Public Television on Wednesday. (Brian Myrick / Idaho Press)
By Betsy Z. Russell Idaho Press

BOISE – The two rivals vying to be Idaho’s lieutenant governor outlined starkly different views during their statewide debate on Wednesday night, with Republican Janice McGeachin warning against “traveling down the progressive path” and Democrat Kristin Collum saying she wants to “pull us back into the middle in these divisive times.”

“From what I see, it is this extreme side, either from the right or the left, it is this extreme ideology that takes us away from moving forward,” Collum said. “Right now everyone’s feeling the divisiveness. They’re feeling that stretch, that rip in the fabric, and it’s because there’s divisiveness from both sides stretching it like a rubber band and it’s going to break.”

She spoke repeatedly in favor of expanding Medicaid, as proposed in Proposition 2 on the November ballot, touted her background in the military and the high-tech sector, and called herself a “moderate and pragmatic leader who feels a deep loyalty to our state and country.”

McGeachin spoke out against abortion and same-sex marriage, “absolutely” backed the Bundy family in its anti-government protests, and declared she wants to “keep Idaho conservative.”

“I do not believe in universal health care or a massive government program in health care, but rather support the free market,” McGeachin said.

“In Idaho, we have embraced the original design of our government, a constitutional republic where citizens are governed with a light touch, federal government is limited, and our God-given unalienable rights are sacrosanct,” she said. “These conservative values are now at risk. We must stand firm and keep Idaho conservative, despite the attacks from the left.”

Idaho’s lieutenant governor’s main duties are to preside over the state Senate and fill in for the governor when the governor is out of state or incapacitated. But most lieutenant governors have been assigned additional duties by the governors they serve with, from vetting state appointees to working on economic development.

Collum said beyond the basic duties of the office, she had two specific areas where she’d like to work: Helping oversee the Idaho National Guard and veterans programs; and working on cybersecurity for the state, an area she’s worked on extensively in her professional career. She said she’s the only one among the candidates for governor or lieutenant governor, from either party, who has “worn the uniform.”

McGeachin touted her legislative experience; she served 10 years in the state House and chaired the House Health & Welfare Committee. “The vice-CEO of the state of Idaho is not a role for an apprentice,” she said. “The voters know where I stand on any given issue. … I have a proven record there.”

She said she’d like to “be able to advise and consent the governor on agency and commission appointments;” co-chair a state commission on nuclear energy issues so she can “be an advocate of the Idaho National Laboratory,” which she called “a national gem;” and work to expand apprenticeship programs in Idaho to “help close the skills gap.”

Under questioning from a panel of reporters, Collum said she believes women have a right to safe and legal abortions, saying, “It’s not anyone’s business, especially the government.”

She also called for increasing the minimum wage. “It should be something that is gradual and considered — maybe even just a local option,” she said, allowing Idaho communities with higher costs of living to raise the current $7.25 minimum to suit local conditions.

McGeachin opposed raising the minimum wage, saying as a small business owner, she knows the free market will take care of that. “In this economy, you can’t hire someone for less than $10 per hour,” she said. “And when you do remove that $7.25 per hour, the population that hurts most is our high school kids who are just trying to get an entry-level job and earn a little bit of money.”

McGeachin said she believes the government should have “no role” in determining wages.

The two did find common ground on some topics; both said they oppose new restrictions on gun rights in Idaho, and both called for keeping public lands accessible.

One other commonality: Both are women, so the contest is guaranteed to result in a historic first, as the winner will be Idaho’s first female lieutenant governor.

Collum said she could work with a governor from either party, and McGeachin echoed that, but said she’d prefer GOP nominee Brad Little. She also criticized Collum, saying, “How convenient that after Paulette Jordan’s campaign starts falling apart, you distance yourself from her.”

Jordan and Collum originally announced in the spring that they were running together as a “ticket,” though Idaho elects its governor and lieutenant governor separately. Collum said, “It didn’t happen.”

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