BOISE – When Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin announced she was running for governor Wednesday using the hashtag #IAmIdaho on a campaign sign attached to her podium, Idahoans took to social media decrying what some say is a misrepresentation of Idaho values.
McGeachin, R-Idaho Falls, made national headlines last year over an appearance in an Idaho Freedom Foundation video in which she held a Bible in one hand and a gun in another to signal her opposition to any coronavirus-related restrictions.
She has aligned herself with members of militia groups and strongly advocates for gun rights and “traditional marriage.” She announced last month a task force to examine what she called indoctrination in Idaho’s public schools. In her news release announcing the task force, she said it would seek evidence of “problematic teachings on social justice, critical race theory, socialism, communism, or Marxism …”
In an email to the Idaho Press, a campaign statement read, “The hashtag #IAmIdaho was used in conjunction with Wednesday’s rallies to reference Janice’s commitment to restoring the voice of the forgotten man and woman and challenging a rigged system. Idahoans are tired of being ignored, shut out of the process, declared nonessential, and discriminated against by the state.”
But when McGeachin announced her gubernatorial campaign, reaction was swift, especially on Twitter where users co-opted the #IAmIdaho hashtag.
“The loudest voices get the most attention and suck the oxygen out of the room,” said Emily Walton, co-founder of the Idaho 97 Project, a political advocacy group. “In the past, people who’ve seen this extremism come up have said we should just ignore it. I have believed for a very long time that was the wrong tactic.”
Walton said news of McGeachin’s campaign announcement leaked Tuesday, causing the #IAmIdaho hashtag to trend locally as Idahoans opposed to McGeachin took to Twitter, calling her politics extreme.
Walton and others this week presented a diverse array of Idaho experiences and beliefs that counter McGeachin’s narrative that she intends to “restore the principles of individual liberty, state sovereignty, and traditional conservative values.”
“How has the Republican party, specifically Janice’s faction of the party, failed you?” wrote one Twitter user asking others to share their thoughts.
And share their thoughts the twitterati did, giving defense of their own “Idaho values” and taking issue with what they perceive as McGeachin’s views.
On Twitter, Walton posted she was homeschooled and grew up on a potato farm in Declo with nine siblings. “I was also raised in a very conservative family,” she said Friday. “Yet, we were never fighting to put our religion in schools. We didn’t ever show up with guns at a public meeting. As conservative as my family was, we didn’t have this self-entitled idea that we got to tell other people how to live.”
Jennifer Martínez, a local organizer who grew up in Wendell and is the daughter of first-generation immigrants, tweeted, “I experience racism every day in Idaho. I am queer in Idaho. I am bilingual, Spanish was my first language.
“I’ve been told to go back to where I came from. I’ve been asked where I’m really from. I’ve been asked if I speak English.”
“I’ve witnessed my parents experience racism and discrimination every day of their lives,” the tweet continued. “My (U.S. Marine Corps) combat veteran husband has been called a wetback at the grocery store in Wendell; a n-word loving spic (when he drove my car that had an Obama sticker). #IAmIdaho.”
Another Idahoan Louise Seeley wrote, “I was born in Boise, My family has been here since the early 1900’s. My parents, aunts/uncles are all gone but were lifelong Republicans. They would be disgusted at what that party has become. We all know the ‘Idaho Way’ and this ain’t it. #IAmIdaho.”
A woman who grew up in Kuna and works as a public interest lawyer wrote, “Moved to Idaho 25 years ago as a kid. Proud grad of Kuna HS & College of Idaho. I believe we need to dismantle systemic racism, reform our justice system, guarantee housing, fully fund public education, shrink income & wealth inequality, & take action on climate change. #IAmIdaho.”
If the reaction to the campaign announcements for the Idaho governor and lieutenant governor are any indication, the 2022 election will be a wild ride.
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