Idaho Gov. repeals ban on mask mandates, accuses Lt. Gov. of 'abuse of power'

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Idaho Gov. Brad Little rescinded Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s executive order banning mask mandates on Friday, referring to his GOP political rival’s surprise action as a “self-serving political stunt.”

McGeachin implemented the ban earlier this week while serving as acting governor while Little traveled out of state for the Republican Governors Association conference in Nashville, Tennessee. In a scathing statement detailing his reversal, Little accused McGeachin of abusing the power of her office.

“The action that took place while I was traveling this week is not gubernatorial. The action that took place was an irresponsible, self-serving political stunt,” Little said. “Taking the earliest opportunity to act solitarily on a highly politicized, polarizing issue without conferring with local jurisdictions, legislators, and the sitting Governor is, simply put, an abuse of power.”

“This kind of over-the-top executive action amounts to tyranny – something we all oppose,” he added.

McGeachin took action just days after announcing her intent to challenge Little for governor in 2022. While Idaho never imposed a statewide mask mandate during the coronavirus pandemic, state law allows local governments and some institutions to dictate their own public health policies.

Little’s office said the lieutenant governor did not inform the governor of her planned action prior to the announcement. McGeachin pushed back on Little’s criticism in a post on her Facebook account.

“Today, Gov. Little chose to revoke your personal freedom by rescinding my order and imposing mask mandates on thousands of Idaho children, rejecting the conservative solutions embraced by leaders like Gov. Abbott in Texas and Gov. DeSantis in Florida,” McGeachin said.

“As your Lt. Governor, I remain undeterred and unwavering in my commitment to defend your rights and freedoms against all who would violate them,” she added. “Now, more than ever, we must stand together against those who prioritize their own power above individual liberty.”

McGeachin’s order applied to local governments, schools and public libraries. Health care facilities such as hospitals were excluded from the ban.

Little said his executive action was meant to “restore local control” following mcGeachin’s order.

“I am always reluctant to engage in political ploys, especially when I have been steadfast in meeting the simultaneous goals of protecting both lives and livelihoods. I do not like petty politics. I do not like political stunts over the rule of law,” he said. “However, the significant consequences of the Lt. Governor’s flimsy executive order require me to clean up a mess.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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