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Idaho’s Republican lieutenant governor and gubernatorial candidate, Janice McGeachin, attended a gathering where she was endorsed in a glowing introductory speech by a rightwing militia leader, as revealed in a video obtained by the Guardian.
The video shows Eric Parker, who was charged over his role in the standoff in 2014 at Bundy Ranch in Nevada where he was pictured pointing an assault rifle at federal agents, reminding McGeachin that she told him at an earlier meeting that “if I get in, you’re going to have a friend in the governor’s office”.
In the same speech, Parker tells the small audience that when he sought McGeachin’s assistance in the case of Todd Engel, another Bundy Ranch attendee who was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2019, he showed her sealed evidence from the trial.
He recalled saying to her: “I’m not sure this is legal” and that she replied: “I want to see it,” after which time he said she “started writing letters to the Department of Justice” and “rallying support” on behalf of the imprisoned man.
Parker posted the speech video on his Telegram channel on 19 May, the same day that McGeachin publicly announced her candidacy for governor, where she may be up against the incumbent, fellow Republican Brad Little, who is yet to clarify his intentions.
In his endorsement, Parker tells the audience: “We need to do everything we can to get her where she can do the most good for us … we got to get her in there for us.” A few moments later McGeachin walks into frame and the two embrace.
McGeachin has encountered previous controversies involving links with extremist groups. In 2018 she refused to answer media questions as to whether she was using Three Percenter members as security during her gubernatorial run. In 2019, she was pictured with Three Percenters who were rallying in support of Engel.
She has also offered support to anti-mask and anti-lockdown protesters in the state, who include Ammon Bundy’s People’s Rights Network.
In his speech in the video, Parker also recalled McGeachin signing a letter in support of him, as part of an effort led by the far-right Idaho representative Dorothy Moon during his federal prosecution in Nevada for his own role in the standoff.
Parker pleaded guilty in 2018 to a misdemeanor after two hung-jury trials on felony charges including including conspiracy, extortion, assault and obstruction, and eighteen 18 months in custody. Engel’s trial was vacated by the ninth circuit court of appeals last August.
Earlier that year, Parker founded the Real 3% of Idaho as an unincorporated non-profit organization. In late 2020, he claimed that the organization had 2,500 members around the state, and has repeatedly denied that the group is a militia.
A 1 June video on Parker’s 3% of Idaho YouTube channel shows Parker and Engel drilling with assault rifles on a rural property, and features the title “Eric and Todd, Idaho’s gunmen celebrate Memorial day”.
Parker is not shy of controversy. In a 2 May photograph on Parker’s Telegram account Parker stands side by side with Nate Silvester, who was at that time still a deputy with the marshal’s office in Bellevue, Idaho, just miles away from Parker’s address in Hailey in Blaine county. Parker identifies Silvester only as “Officer Funny”, presumably a reference to the fact that the deputy was enjoying a moment of viral fame after he posted a video to TikTok mocking the tweets of LeBron James, who had tweeted protesting at the fatal police shooting of the Ohio teen Ma’Khia Bryant.
Following Silvester’s 24 April video, which said among other things that the officer who shot Bryant “did the right thing”, the city of Bellevue placed him on administrative leave, and then fired him on 29 May.
Lindsay Schubiner, program director at the Western States Center, a progressive non-profit whose work includes monitoring extremist groups in the region, said that Parker’s video “demonstrated his cozy relationship with McGeachin”.
She described the relationship between such a senior politician and the far-right militia figure as “deeply disturbing”.
Schubiner added that McGeachin “has consistently sought the support and backing of extreme, anti-democratic movements in Idaho”, and that “no public official has any business advancing the agenda of an anti-democratic paramilitary group”.
Neither McGeachin nor Parker responded to repeated attempts to contact them for comment.
• This article was amended on 10 June 2021. The Bundy ranch standoff was in Nevada, not New Mexico as stated in an earlier version.