April 5, 1996 in Idaho

Party Unknown Wants To Clean Up

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Matt Alan Lambert would give half a month’s salary for a shot at becoming Idaho’s next congressman.

Actually, he already has.

Lambert, an out-of-work window-washer and one-time gold panner, spent half of his March earnings - $300 - to file as a candidate against U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth.

The Murray resident announced his candidacy Thursday from a seat inside the tiny town’s Spragpole bar, a short walk from his trailer home.

“I don’t feel she’s done enough,” he said. But “I don’t want to say anything bad about her.”

At 34, Lambert, who has never held political office, said he was running as a candidate for change.

“An election is like Christmas,” he said. “It’s so commercialized and everybody wants to make a buck. I just want to help.”

He wants to balance the budget, improve rural health care and stop welfare fraud by passing out credit cards for recipients instead of food stamps.

Lambert also wants to break a record by being the only candidate elected without political action committee money. He’ll accept campaign donations of up to $100.

Lambert faces a mountain of a battle - even at home.

Nearly 70 percent of Murray’s residents - “we counted them once and I think there’s 64” - are Republicans, he said. He filed as a Democrat.

“When I looked it up in the dictionary, ‘Democrat’ said ‘for all the people,” he said. “‘Republican’ just referred to the political party.”

That means he’ll face Boise attorney Dan Williams, who has money and the backing of the Democratic Party, in May’s primary.

It’s not that Lambert is completely void of political experience. He twice took on state Rep. Gino White in the Democratic primary. In 1994, he earned 672 votes to White’s 2,110 in Shoshone County.

But he’s unconventional enough that Thursday’s announcement sent a ripple through Shoshone County’s political establishment. It caught Anna Wilson, chairwoman of the Silver Valley’s Democratic Party, offguard.

She was distraught that Lambert’s only participation in the party is the “D” by his name on the ballot. In fact, Wilson said, she’s not entirely sure she’s even seen his face.

“If he walked in my door I would only know him because he’s so very slender,” she said. “He’s not a party regular.”

While he hasn’t completely articulated his message yet, Lambert said he will get it out during a campaign tour of the state.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo


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