On the eve of a lucrative fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth, featured speaker Newt Gingrich canceled his appearance here.
Gingrich had been scheduled to whisk into Boise this afternoon for a quick fund-raiser, but put off the appearance because of federal budget negotiations and the East Coast blizzard.
Chenoweth, R-Idaho, said she had “mixed feelings” about the last-minute decision. “Of course I’m sad that he’s not coming in, but I’m glad he’s the kind of politician that has his priorities in order, because balancing the budget is much more important than politics as usual.”
At least two groups planning anti-Gingrich events said theirs will go on as scheduled today.
Chenoweth’s campaign staffers said they hope to reschedule the House speaker’s visit for later this month. More than 560 people bought $100-a-person tickets to hear Gingrich speak, said event coordinator Nancy Bloomer, and 63 people paid $1,000 apiece for VIP tickets allowing pictures with Gingrich, a private briefing and a question-and-answer session.
“We just have a few more of those available,” she said.
Though the campaign will offer refunds, “We’re just encouraging everyone to hold onto their tickets,” Bloomer said. The tickets will be honored on the new date.
Democrat Dan Williams, who is running against Chenoweth, said his “No Newt Night,” featuring Fig Newtons, chili dogs, a Dixieland band and a $10-per-person price, is still on.
“We wanted to have an event for average Idahoans who could afford $10,” he said. “We’ve had an overwhelming response.”
“We’re declaring victory,” Williams said with a chuckle. “We announced a No Newt Night, and lo and behold, it came true.”
A coalition of conservation, labor and senior citizens’ groups that planned a protest rally outside the Chenoweth fund-raiser also will go forward with its plans, said Mike Medberry of the Idaho Conservation League. “Newt is going to be there for our rally,” Medberry said. “You can have your picture taken with Newt for a dollar. It’ll be a cardboard Newt, but he’ll be there.”
Chenoweth said her recent fund raising has been successful, and she has wiped out more than $100,000 of her debt from her last campaign. “I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” she said.
Though the campaign still owes her money, she said her current fund raising is designed to “get on with the campaign,” with the idea that she’ll be paid back little by little.
Of the controversial Gingrich, Chenoweth said, “I have great respect for him. He has a natural gift of leadership.”
She added, “He’s very bright. He must have an IQ that tops out at the top of the charts.”
Chenoweth said she agrees with Gingrich on most budget and political issues, but differs from him on natural resource issues. Gingrich doesn’t share Chenoweth’s hard-line pro-industry views on environmental issues, she said, because “his whole political life has been spent between Georgia and Washington, D.C.”
Chenoweth said she and other Western members of Congress “have some training and teaching to do.”