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Eye On Boise

Thu., Oct. 14, 2010, 8:11 p.m.

Debate wraps up…

GOP challenger Raul Labrador, left, Congressman Walt Minnick, center, and independent Dave Olson, right, laugh just before the start of their debate on live TV tonight. (Betsy Russell)
GOP challenger Raul Labrador, left, Congressman Walt Minnick, center, and independent Dave Olson, right, laugh just before the start of their debate on live TV tonight. (Betsy Russell)

Wow, that was quite a debate. It just wrapped up, and the "Takeaway" online discussion is about to begin; you can watch here (click on "Watch Live"). Click below for a complete report on the debate from Associated Press reporter Jessie Bonner.

Minnick, Labrador trade barbs during debate
By JESSIE L. BONNER, Associated Press Writer

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Democratic U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick called for bipartisan solutions to cure the nation's economic woes even as he and his Republican challenger, Raul Labrador, traded sharp barbs during a debate Thursday.

Minnick and Labrador all but bickered over negative ads each side has launched against the other for the first half of their only televised debate before the Nov. 2 election.

Labrador, an attorney and two-term state lawmaker from Eagle, called Minnick "shameful" for airing negative ads that attacked Labrador's work in immigration law and told voters he profited from illegal immigration.

Labrador joked that the ads appear to portray him as an illegal immigrant.

"I've seen some pretty vile rhetoric," Labrador said, "and I think he should be ashamed of that."

Minnick then blasted Labrador for his new campaign ad, which targets Minnick's voting record and support for a pair of bills passed this summer that spent $68 billion to preserve teaching jobs and open credit to small businesses.

While the bills had support from some Republicans and are not designed to be paid for by adding to the federal deficit, Labrador's ad characterizes both pieces of legislation as "stimulus spending" and flashes pictures of Minnick alongside pictures of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama.

"To say that I'm a Nancy Pelosi clone and that I voted with the bailouts, you know that's not true," said Minnick, a fiscal conservative who represents Idaho's 1st Congressional District.

Independent candidate Dave Olson chastised Minnick and Labrador for not talking enough about the issues and what they would do to limit the federal government's reach.

The debate, which aired statewide on Idaho Public Television, was marked with heated exchanges between Minnick and Labrador over illegal immigration. But there seemed to be little difference in their stances on the issue.

Minnick said the nation needs to secure its borders, ensure employers hire legal workers and implement a temporary worker program. He also proposed a system where illegal immigrants would come out of hiding and go before a judge, who would determine a penalty whether it be jail or deportation, and then provide them an avenue toward legal status.

Meanwhile, Labrador called for the enforcement of existing immigration laws, a secure the border even if it means deploying the national guard to do so, and the implementation of a guest worker program. In the Idaho Legislature, he co-sponsored a bill that sought to punish businesses caught knowingly hiring illegal workers. The measure failed.

The issue has become a centerpiece of the race for the 1st District, which encompasses the western half of Idaho and spans from the state board with Nevada north to the state border with Canada.

In 2008, Minnick upset GOP U.S. Rep. Bill Sali to score Idaho's biggest political upset in more than a decade and claim the seat that had long been in Republican hands. A fiscal conservative, Minnick voted against the health care overhaul bill and the bailouts, touting his record as the "most independent" member of the U.S. House.

Minnick has raised more than $2.4 million in his bid for a second term.

Labrador's campaign has countered that Minnick is going to have to spend every penny in his campaign war chest to save his political livelihood amid widespread voter frustration with Washington and his party's leadership.

During the last half of the debate, which was sponsored by the Idaho Press Club and the League of Women Voters, Minnick drew sharp contrasts between him and his opponent. He painted Labrador as an extremist who supports a return to the gold standard and repeal of the 17th Amendment requiring direct elections of U.S. senators.

"Whether it's a Republican or Democratic Congress, it will be the centrist like myself who has the greatest influence," Minnick said.

Labrador agreed the difference between the two men couldn't be more stark.

"If you are happy with what has happened over the past two years in the United States, then I am not your choice," Labrador said. "But if you want somebody who will go back to Washington, D.C. and will actually stand up to Obama and will actually take on his agenda then you need to elect a proven conservative leader."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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