This election year has been dubbed as the “year of women” in politics. A more appropriate description should be, “It’s about time.”
Idaho has no shortage of smart women who are making their mark in politics, and at least three are guaranteed to serve in state offices. No matter what happens on Nov. 6, Republican Julie Ellsworth will become the next state treasurer because she’s running unopposed. Superintendent Sherri Ybarra is running for re-election against Cindy Wilson — two sharp women from different parties and contrasting ideas.
And for the first time in the state’s history, Idaho will have a woman serving as lieutenant governor — a “heartbeat away” (or more like a presidential cabinet appointment away) from being governor. Democrat Kristin Collum and Republican Janice McGeachin are vying for that job. If Democrat Paulette Jordan upsets Lt. Gov. Brad Little in the governor’s race, and Democrat Jill Humble takes out Secretary of State Lawerence Denney, Idaho will no longer have an “old-boys club” in the state offices.
The lieutenant governor’s race is an easy one to forget about. It’s a part-time job, and the only defined duties are presiding over the state Senate and filling in as governor when the boss is out of town. The office also has proven over the years to be a marvelous career builder for a higher office.
Neither Collum nor McGeachin have a great deal of statewide name recognition, although McGeachin served 10 years as a state representative from Idaho Falls.
Collum is typical of Democrats who have run for higher offices in the Gem State over the years. She’s well-educated and has a strong resume in the private sector, but the first time her name appears for bipartisan consumption is near the top of the ballot. Collum plays up the fact that she is the only veteran running on the state’s ballot. Although she’s fully supporting Jordan, she thinks she could do good things with Little in the governor’s chair — especially with services for veterans and cyber-security. She has worked with Micron and Hewlett-Packard, and more recently as a software engineering manager for Xylem.
“When it comes to cyber-security, there is a very important difference between saying you care about it and actually achieving and maintaining secure online systems,” she says. “As your lieutenant governor, I will ensure the state’s cyber-security initiative gets the attention and support it needs to keep Idaho government systems and data safe.”
Of course, Collum doesn’t need a political title to work on cyber-security, or veterans’ services. A Gov. Little, who his committed to those two issues, might want to talk with her after the election.
McGeachin says she has a broader knowledge of state government, and more practical experience in state government. Her legislative experience includes time on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee and as chair of the House Health and Welfare Committee. Then, she returned to Idaho Falls for a few years before running for this office.
“That makes me a perfect candidate for this job,” she says. “Stepping away has given me an additional perspective. When I went back to the private sector, I opened a restaurant and began to realize how difficult it is for business owners to realize the American dream with the excessive regulations and taxations.”
McGeachin thinks she can be an asset to Little on various policy issues and appointments. If Jordan wins, then McGeachin would be spending much of her time disagreeing on policy issues — giving her little role in the executive branch.
If McGeachin serves with Little, it would be interesting to see how she handles disagreements with the governor — and they will occur. It would be interesting to see if McGeachin stands by the governor, or sides with the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s Wayne Hoffman when he chimes in with opposition on certain issues.
It also will be interesting to see what voters decide. In simple terms, if you like Jordan for governor, then Collum is your candidate. If you like Little, then McGeachin would be the better choice.
But if you want to see some political drama over the next four years, then here’s your opportunity to shake up things a bit.
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Chuck Malloy, a Silver Valley native and longtime Idaho journalist, is a columnist with Idaho Politics Weekly. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.