Kelley Packer gets our nod in Republican race for Idaho lieutenant governor

The dome inside of the Idaho Statehouse, looking up through the rotunda.
The dome inside of the Idaho Statehouse, looking up through the rotunda. Idaho Statesman file

The duties of an Idaho lieutenant governor are fourfold: Serve as president of the Senate; be a workmate for the governor, assisting and supporting the state’s executive branch; step in when the governor is out of state; and be prepared to take over, at a moment’s notice, if something should happen to the boss.

In the primary race for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor, the candidates easily divide into two camps: A group of three who are outside the mainstream of conservative Republican orthodoxy in Idaho, and two who recognize that working with others with different viewpoints is the way to get things done.

In the first group is state Sen. Bob Nonini of Coeur d’Alene, who has said that he would consider criminal punishments for women who get abortions. Former GOP Chairman Steve Yates wouldn’t go that far, but did that say abortion is murder and he would respect the will of the voters as to what is appropriate punishment. Former Rep. Janice McGeachin would tear down the Your Health Idaho insurance exchange, despite its successful track record as a state-run solution helping Idahoans get health coverage. An Idaho Falls business owner who left the Legislature in 2012, McGeachin seems intent on refighting old battles like that and adoption of common core school curriculum instead of looking to the future.

[Related: See the candidates in the Idaho Public Television debate]

[Related: Learn about all the candidates in our online voter guide]

Better suited to advising and supporting the governor are state Sen. Marv Hagedorn of Meridian and Rep. Kelley Packer of McCammon, two conservatives with solid reputations as smart, effective lawmakers who can get along with their colleagues. Both Hagedorn and Packer have played leadership roles in past legislative sessions trying to address health care gaps created in the implementation of the Affordable Health Care. Both would be prepared to step up to the governor’s office should the need arise.

Hagedorn is a businessman and Navy veteran, who emphasizes his military service and work with veterans. Packer works in public relations and has stood up to "bullying" by the powerful Idaho Freedom Foundation and brooked her House leaders to fight for health care.

Yates, of Idaho Falls, is an intriguing candidate. He successfully restored order to the state party as its chairman. He’s an Asia affairs expert and fluent Mandarin speaker who served as a national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney. And while he would do well representing Idaho on trade missions, his politics veer too far right for us to believe he would represent the broad, diverse interests of all Idahoans.

The GOP winner will face the winner of the Democratic primary, which pits Kristin Collum, a veteran of the U.S. Army as well as Micron and HP, against a North Idaho candidate who’s not waging a serious campaign.

For us, the GOP race comes down to a contest between Hagedorn and Packer. But Hagedorn stumbled in the Idaho Public Television campaign, wrongly saying that Yates misrepresented his service with the National Security Agency as service in the military. That faux pas prompts us to give Packer the nod.

Unsigned editorials represent the opinion of the Statesman editorial board. Note: Board member Kelly Parker did not participate in the endorsement process.