BOISE – Republican Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s association with what a group of retired Idaho county sheriffs and police officers said are extreme, anti-law enforcement factions prompted them on Tuesday to announce they have joined together to oppose her run for governor.
The 12 retired officials announced the formation of a new political action committee called Defend & Protect Idaho that is comprised of military and law enforcement members, small business owners, faith leaders, farmers and ranchers.
“The only agenda is to restore civility, to restore common sense, and to restore the rule of law by our elected officials in Idaho,” said former Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney, a Republican.
McGeachin is challenging first-term Republican Gov. Brad Little. The governor and lieutenant governor in Idaho run on separate tickets. McGeachin didn’t immediately respond to a phone message left at her office.
She appears to be targeting far-right voters in the May 17 Republican primary, which is restricted to registered Republicans and typically draws fewer voters than the general election.
McGeachin in February delivered a taped speech to the America First Political Action Conference, a white nationalist gathering that included supporters of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. McGeachin, who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, is one of the highest-ranking elected state officials to have participated in one of the group’s gatherings.
And in 2019, McGeachin posed outside her office with two members of the Three Percenters, an anti-government militia group. One of her staff members made posts on social media that the group of retired law enforcement officials said equated to promoting the killing of police officers.
Ron Winegar, who retired as a deputy chief with the Boise Police Department, was shot seven times in 1997 in a gun battle in Boise with two brothers from Pennsylvania. Another Boise police officer died, as did the two brothers.
Winegar said the brothers had a “militia mentality mindset” with a “hatred of government and law enforcement” that he sees as increasingly present, endangering police and society.
“To me it’s a reminder that danger and dangerous mindsets are out there, and it’s only a short jump from there to actual violent encounters,” he said.
He also said that in recent years far-right groups have targeted the homes of police officers, judges, lawmakers and the workplaces of doctors and nurses, preventing the general public from getting care.
“We see what are billed as protests but are really meant as intimidation,” Winegar said. “That is a huge step in the wrong direction.”
Former Bonneville County Sheriff Paul Wilde said that when ideologies take hold that lead to the breakdown of society “then I think we’re going to have a real problem, and who are they going to call? They are going to call law enforcement to come and take care of it.”
He added: “But if law enforcement is continually threatened and we have to worry about peace as they do on a daily basis, then nobody is going to be a law enforcement officer, and there’s going to be chaos and anarchy and society as we know it is going to go by the wayside and crumble and it’s just going to be criminal activity.”
The Idaho Fraternal Order of Police in April endorsed Little. The group is the largest organization representing law enforcement in Idaho, with about 2,500 members.
“Governor Little backs the blue and we are proud to back him,” the group’s president, Bryan Lovell, said in a statement at the time of the endorsement.
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