Former Idaho Gov. Phil Batt today endorsed Vaughn Ward in the GOP primary race for the 1st District congressional seat, joining a group of GOP Canyon County elected officials in taking sides in the hotly contested Republican primary race. “I think he’s a better-qualified candidate, a deeper thinker, a harder worker,” Batt said of Ward, who’s facing off with state Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, in the primary contest. That means Ward now has two former Idaho governors - Batt and former GOP Gov. Dirk Kempthorne - on his side in the race.
Batt said he’s not particularly displeased with the performance of the current 1st District congressman, conservative “Blue Dog” Democrat Walt Minnick. But he said his biggest concern is the fiscal state of the nation, and though he faults both parties for the state of affairs, he’s become convinced the best fix is to remove the current Democratic presidential administration, and that the first step toward that is returning control of Congress to Republicans in the 2010 election. Batt, 83, said, “The elections are fast approaching, and it’s time for us to get off the fences and get involved - and that’s what I’m doing.” He said, “I’m concerned we’re headed to the financial precipice,” and called Ward “a fiscal conservative who will turn off this disgraceful federal money spout that is heading us into bankruptcy.”
Batt, who was known as “Governor Tightwad” for his penny-pinching as governor, said the state’s still in better shape now because he reduced the number of state employees when he was in office from 1994-1998. He said when lawmakers made sharp cuts in the state budget this year, “I don’t think they had any choice. They may have been a little ham-handed at times. … I think they did the right thing.” He said, “Those sales tax exemptions are going to be on the table one of these days. I think they were right to put it off.” He said he’s still disappointed, however, that the Legislature didn’t address Gov. Butch Otter’s call in the past few years to step up highway maintenance funding. “There’s gonna be a day of reckoning on that,” Batt said.