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Saturday, February 22, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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In an unusual step, Idaho GOP candidate brought a full security team to a debate

Lieutenant governor candidates Democrat Kristin Collum, left, and Republican Janice McGeachin at an Oct. 17 Idaho Public Television debate. (Kevin Rank / Idaho Statesman)
Lieutenant governor candidates Democrat Kristin Collum, left, and Republican Janice McGeachin at an Oct. 17 Idaho Public Television debate. (Kevin Rank / Idaho Statesman)
By Ruth Brown Idaho Statesman

Republican lieutenant governor candidate Janice McGeachin brought multiple security guards to her Oct. 17 debate at Idaho Public Television — the first time staff there recall a candidate taking such a step.

It’s unclear why McGeachin decided to bring the four men, two of whom came inside the building for the debate and another two who stayed outside in a parking lot. It’s also unknown if she regularly retains a large security presence. But her apparent heightened concern stands out in a state where few candidates pursue such protection.

McGeachin is a businesswoman and former state lawmaker. Her debate with Democrat Kristin Collum at the Idaho PTV studio in Boise focused on Medicaid expansion, abortion, gun rights and education. Collum was not accompanied by security guards.

Jeff Tucker, the station’s director of content services, said the two men who came into the building announced themselves by name but did not give any affiliation. It’s unclear if the men had concealed weapons. They did not openly carry any firearms nor did they ask to bring in firearms, Tucker said. They did have radios to communicate with the men in the parking lot.

“Because we are a state agency, we can’t prevent people from bringing (firearms) into the building,” Idaho PTV General Manager Ron Pisaneschi said. “We don’t know if they are carrying firearms, and we can’t legally prevent them.”

Tucker said the two men who came inside stood guard outside McGeachin’s dressing room, and stood by the doors of the studio during the debate.

Asked Friday about the private security, McGeachin’s campaign responded with a brief written statement: “Discussing specifics of security would compromise Ms. McGeachin’s security and is not for release to the public.”

Idaho PTV’s building is locked after hours. For debates, the station hires its own security guard to vet guests at the entrance. Only individuals who are on a guest list, put together by IPTV and the debate participants, are allowed into the studio.

“In the past, we have had some individuals who were not invited try to come to the debate,” Tucker said.

McGeachin spokeswoman Maureen Hatfield said the campaign was not aware of “specific threats against Rep. McGeachin or any other candidate.” She declined to answer questions about the security guards’ affiliation or whether McGeachin would continue using them if elected.

Idaho State Police spokesman Tim Marsano said his agency also did not know of any threats against McGeachin.

The Statesman this week was otherwise unable to confirm who provided the security guards.

Idaho’s candidate security normsGov. Butch Otter “almost always” brings an ISP trooper with him when visiting the Idaho PTV station, Tucker said, and some members of Congress have brought federal marshals with them before. But last week was the only time Tucker remembered seeing a candidate bring a large security presence to a debate, he said.

State law directs ISP troopers to provide protection to the governor and to the lieutenant governor, if ordered. The law doesn’t provide for the same service for candidates for office. Marsano said ISP is not aware of any current state elected officials using private security.

No other current candidates for governor or lieutenant governor appear to be using security services to the same extent.

Collum said she only invited her family, some friends and her staff to last week’s debate. She does not bring a gun with her when she campaigns, she said.

“No one has shown up anywhere armed,” Collum said about her campaign events.

Republican Lt. Gov. Brad Little, running for governor, did not bring security to his Idaho PTV debate on Oct. 15 and does not bring security to campaign events, said spokeswoman Ysabel Bilbao. Little does not use the ISP protection offered in state law, she said.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paulette Jordan has relied on a “body man” to drive her across the state and act as a de facto security presence, said spokeswoman Dana Ferris. But Ferris did not believe Jordan brought any security with her to the Idaho PTV debate.

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