U.S. Sen. Larry Craig kicked off his re-election campaign Tuesday, saying the nation is starting to come around to his way of thinking.
In appearances around the state, Craig sounded his longtime themes of shrinking federal government, balancing environmental concerns with economics and protecting jobs.
Washington scoffed at his ideas a decade ago, Craig said. But now they’re mainstream.
“In 1982, I started the balanced-budget movement when everyone scoffed about it and said it wouldn’t happen. Now we’re doing it,” the Republican senator said in a brief interview as he headed from one campaign stop to the next.
“I talked about welfare reform, limiting taxes and limiting the size of government. Everyone laughed about it 10 years ago. Now we’re doing it in Washington,” Craig said.
That means “Idahoans are winning in the nation’s capital,” he said.
Craig, 50, served five terms in Congress from 1980 to 1990 before being elected to the Senate. He now is seeking his second Senate term. His narrowest margin of victory was in 1980, when Boise insurance salesman Glenn Nichols cornered 46 percent of the vote and Craig got 54 percent.
When Craig last ran for Senate, he easily dispatched Ron Twilegar, who only received 38 percent of the vote.
He brushed off a challenge from his current Democratic opponent, businessman Walt Minnick, to sign a pledge to serve no more than two terms in the Senate.
Instead, Craig offered to push for a vote to impose term limits on senators and congressmen from all states. “It’s really the vote that counts,” Craig said. “We need equity and uniformity … because Idaho can’t be discriminated against.”
Craig used a warehouse at Idaho Veneer Co. in Post Falls to stump for re-election votes in North Idaho. The crowd of more than 100 included local Republican party faithful, including Kootenai County commissioners, and Idaho Veneer workers mingled with an ample campaign staff and a Craig-sponsored film crew.
He delivered his speech from a platform of finished veneer, using a podium crafted from a tree trunk.
Coeur d’Alene resident and retired electrician Fred Waldrum turned out to listen. “It seems to me like everything that’s come up, he’s represented the way I’ve felt about it,” Waldrum said.
In Boise, another 100 or so supporters, including Gov. Phil Batt, joined Craig for the announcement.
Although he staked out his ground on the right, Craig said, “We need to reject the notion that all decisions are either-or.
“Those who say we need to tear down the dams that bring us power and irrigation, in order to recover our native fisheries, are just as extreme as those who would say we should let them go extinct. Idaho can do better than that.”
And he added, “Those who seek to end all grazing, logging or mining are as much to blame for a decline in Idaho’s lifestyle as those who ignore the reasonable environmental regulations.”
A board member of the National Rifle Association, Craig said his votes back up his conservative stands. “I’ve never voted for a foreign aid bill,” he said to cheers.
He said, “The last I checked, I was still the only cowboy rancher from Midvale in the United States Senate.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer Staff writer Ken Olsen contributed to this report.