GOP bus tour stops in Pocatello

October 26, 2018 GMT

POCATELLO — Area Republicans and their state and local candidates cheered about their party’s values and accomplishments during a Thursday morning pep rally, before many departed on a regional leg of a statewide bus tour.

The hour-long event at the party’s Pocatello headquarters, located at 650 S. 5th Ave., was one of 72 stops on a road trip spanning 10 days and covering all 44 Idaho counties. The tour seeks to energize the GOP political base prior to an election that appears poised to draw a whopping voter turnout.

The Pocatello crowd applauded when gubernatorial candidate Brad Little, who is currently lieutenant governor, mentioned that Idaho was recently ranked fifth among U.S. states for producing college-ready students. And they cheered when Little acknowledged that volunteers at the local headquarters have been “burning up the phone lines recently” with calls to potential voters.

Ernie Moser, a Republican running for Bannock County Commission, urged the crowd to “carry this energy” and expressed his confidence that “we will be the first one across the finish line.”

Janice McGeachin, who is the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, said the state is at a crossroads, and this election will set the future course.

“We (in Idaho) have traditional values,” McGeachin said. “We’re either going to protect those traditional values that we love, and that’s why we’re here, or we’re going to go down a more progressive path.”

Andrew Mitzel, Little’s deputy campaign manager who organized the tour, said six days of the tour will be spent in Eastern Idaho. Local candidates joined the tour on a “southern loop,” making stops in Soda Springs, Malad, Lava Hot Springs, Bear Lake and Montpelier, before returning to Pocatello.

“It’s nice to rub shoulders with people and get to know people across the state,” said Jason Dixon, the Republican candidate for Bannock County clerk.

The party also scheduled a town hall forum for Thursday night at its local headquarters. The bus was scheduled to head westward on its trek later Thursday afternoon, stopping in American Falls, Rupert and Burley.

“We’ve had big crowds,” Mitzel said. “People are energized and excited.”

Addressing an enthusiastic Pocatello crowd, Secretary of State Lawrence Denney said that 105,000 absentee ballots have already been requested, and early voting turnout is up considerably.

Ken Andrus, a retired Republican lawmaker from Lava Hot Springs, participated in the event as a leader in the fight against an initiative on the election ballot to bring back machines used for gambling on historic horse races.

“People as they understand the issue, they’re pretty much against it,” Andrus said.

Little, however, has come out in support of the gambling proposition. He’s taken no position on another proposition included on the election ballot, to expand Medicaid in Idaho.

Little vows he’ll work with the state Legislature on implementing the expansion, if he’s elected and the measure passes. But he’s concerned that a pending U.S. Supreme Court case could overturn the Affordable Care Act, which would “triple or quadruple” the state’s financial burden for the expansion. The federal government will pick up the bulk of the cost, as it stands.

Little believes the propositions will lead to increased voter participation — possibly even record turnout. He anticipates Idaho conservatives will also be motivated to vote based on the contentious nomination process of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as talk of impeaching President Donald Trump.