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Idaho’s first Hispanic congressman-elect says vote sent message about state

Idaho elected its first Hispanic to represent the state in Congress on Tuesday, as Raul Labrador upset freshman Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick with a decisive 51 percent to 41.3 percent victory. Labrador, a conservative Republican state lawmaker and immigration attorney who charged during the race that Minnick’s attack ads against him had racial overtones, said he thought the “first” was significant because it sent a message to the nation about Idahoans.

“People have such a bad connotation of what Idaho represents,” Labrador said, “a bad place, a racist place. I can’t think of a better message for Idaho to send than to send a young man who was born in Puerto Rico, was raised in Las Vegas and was adopted by this state.” Tony Stewart, a founding board member of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, said the election result is one of a long string of firsts in Idaho’s history that belie the state’s image, which was tarnished by the presence in the 1990s of a small but violent group of white supremacists.

Idaho elected the nation’s first Jewish governor, Moses Alexander, in 1914, and the nation’s first Native American attorney general, Larry EchoHawk, in 1990. It’s also elected Native Americans to the state Legislature and at one time elected a high percentage of women to the Legislature compared to other states. “So there’s a track record there of looking at the merits of how people are seen as candidates, and they’re not basing it on race, but on the issues,” Stewart said. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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