Why Five People (So Far) Want To Be Idaho's Lieutenant Governor

May 12, 2017

Five Republicans are vying to be Idaho's Lt. Governor. The loosely defined position is only bound to stand in for the actual governor when the top executive is out of state or unable to serve.
Credit Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

The field of candidates for Idaho’s Lt. Governor has again increased. There are now five GOP hopefuls seeking the position.

The former chairman of the state’s Republican Party, Steve Yates, is the most recent to throw a hat in the ring for Lt. Governor. The businessman from eastern Idaho previously served as an aid to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Yates joins a crowded field to replace incumbent Brad Little (who is running for governor). Two Republican members of the state legislature are in the race: Sen. Marv Hagedorn and Rep. Kelley Packer. A former candidate for governor, Steve Pankey, and a businesswoman from Idaho Falls, Janice McGeachin, have also announced their bids.

So just why are so many people interested in being Idaho’s lieutenant governor?

According to Boise State assistant political science professor Justin Vaughn, “it’s a great opportunity to continue your political career, to build name recognition throughout the state.” Vaughn says the position is pretty loosely defined so those in the role can make it their own. And another work perk he points out: it’s part time.

Vaughn says the lieutenant governor’s main job is to stand in for the acting governor when he or she leaves the state. But recently, the job has been expanded. Vaughn cites Gov. Butch Otter.

“When he was lieutenant governor, he really professionalized and expanded the role. He took it upon himself to sell Idaho products throughout the world. And Lt. Governor Little has kind of followed in those footsteps.”

To get the most out of the job, a lieutenant governor needs to be self-starting. Hypothetically, they could spend their time bowling or practicing any other hobby until the governor leaves the state.  

“You could absolutely mail it in if you wanted to, for sure,” says Vaughn.

This is the first time in 30 years there’s been an open race for lieutenant governor.

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