In Idaho, some Republicans view their state as a bastion of conservatism in an increasingly liberal world.

“People are flocking here because they are looking for the last safe space for the American dream,” gubernatorial candidate Ed Humphreys said during an outdoor campaign kickoff speech last month in Eagle. “Idaho’s the last foxhole, folks.”

Idaho was the westernmost contiguous state to vote for former President Donald Trump in 2020 and it’s a longtime Republican stronghold, with the party controlling the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the state Legislature for a quarter century. Still, worries of Boise becoming the next Portland or the political implications of a flood of California transplants has motivated candidates and voters in the region.

“For a while now there’s been concerns about growing federal intrusion and those types of things, and the moving left of national policies,” said Jaclyn Kettler, a political scientist at Boise State University. “I think the rapid growth is probably contributing to some of this.”

For two consecutive years, Idaho has had the highest percentage of inbound migration in the U.S. Both years, new move-ins from California led the way, followed by neighboring Washington, Utah and Oregon. The breakdown by party identification between longtimers and those who have been in the state 10 years or less, though, is roughly the same, according to Boise State’s Idaho Public Policy Survey.

“A lot of the people moving into the state reflect the current political leanings of the state,” Kettler said. “So it’s not like we’re only getting liberals from California to here; lots of conservatives, too.”

Rather than moving to the state, a number of voters in nearby Oregon would rather opt to just become part of Idaho. Last month, five Oregon counties voted to consider a proposal to move the state’s boundaries, bolstering Idaho’s rural, conservative makeup.

“Their values line up very, very well with the values of rural Oregon,” said Mike McCarter, lead petitioner for the group Citizens for Greater Idaho. “You’re talking about adding a half a million people to Idaho’s conservative values to help support that conservative vote.”

These Oregon counties want to secede to form ‘Greater Idaho’

The group’s website has an FAQ for Idahoans that promises the proposed new state boundaries would prevent “Boise from drowning out the state’s vote in the future” and keep state lawmakers “attentive to rural issues.” Making such a change would require approval from the Oregon and Idaho legislatures as well as Congress.

So far, seven Republicans have filed paperwork with the secretary of state’s office to run for Idaho governor next year, including anti-government activist Ammon Bundy. Bundy was banned from the Idaho Capitol for a year after he was arrested there twice in two days last August following a protest, and he not registered to vote in the state, which he told NBC News is an act of protest. While Bundy lacks a traditional political network and resume, last year he founded the “People’s Rights” network, a group that’s organized protests outside public officials’ homes.

Other candidates who have filed include incumbent Gov. Brad Little and Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who was elected independently rather than as part of a joint ticket with Little, per Idaho’s uncommon executive branch structure. The two elected officials do not see eye to eye. Their clash over COVID-19 public safety measures suggests that fallout from the virus — which has killed more than 2,000 people in the state as of June 3 and infected nearly 200,000 — could remain a political issue long into next year.

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Little faced a failed recall effort in 2020, and his ability to fend of challengers from the right next year might depend on the makeup of his party’s primary since a crowded far-right lane would cannibalize the voting bloc.

As for McGeachin, a week after announcing her candidacy, she issued an executive order banning mask mandates while Little was out of state at the Republican Governors Association conference in Tennessee and she was acting governor. Little rescinded the order when he returned and called McGeachin’s actions a “self-serving political stunt.” Idaho does not have a statewide mask mandate but local governments and schools are able to make their own.

McGeachin — who drew headlines last year when she appeared holding a firearm and a Bible in a video that seemed to question whether the pandemic was real — characterized her candidacy as a bulwark against Democrats in Washington during her campaign announcement speech.

“What we have seen over the past year is unacceptable,” she said. “With radical leftists now controlling Congress and the White House, your governor must be on the front lines.”

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