If all things were equal, U.S. Sen. Larry Craig’s opponent would be a solid choice to represent Idaho.
Democrat Walt Minnick is a self-made centrist millionaire with ties to timber, conservation, education and business.
But all things aren’t equal.
Craig, father of the Balanced Budget Amendment, is the fourth-ranking Republican in a Senate that’s likely to stay in GOP hands. That gives him the clout to protect the natural resource industry from Clinton administration attempts to undercut important Western legislation like Craig’s salvage logging bill.
As much as we like Minnick, and as much as we believe he’s the type of candidate that can revive the Democratic Party in Idaho, The Spokesman-Review believes Idahoans would be foolish to turn their backs on the incumbent.
First, Craig, not Minnick, is the best candidate to provide Idaho with a long-term solution to its nuclear waste problem. Last year, Craig muscled a bill through the Senate to speed up the opening of a temporary nuclear waste facility in Nevada. Although it died in the House under a veto threat from President Clinton, Craig believes the bill has a good shot at passage next session.
Minnick, meanwhile, has based his campaign on the misguided notion that Idaho needs to renegotiate Gov. Phil Batt’s nuclear waste agreement with the federal government. The deal gives Idaho protections against nuclear waste that no other state has.
Craig has used his growing clout again and again to protect the timber industry from subsidized Canadian imports, to protect the cattle industry from significant increases in grazing fees, to protect the mining industry from potentially crippling increases in royalties, to reform farm subsidies, to provide tax breaks for adoptive families.
Importantly, Craig has been a leader in trying to expedite thinning and replanting in burned-over and fire-prone national forests. That provides jobs for Idaho and helps restore forests.
We are, of course, bothered that Craig didn’t take time from his campaigning to debate his challenger in North Idaho. The omission strikes us as arrogant and may be the first indication that Craig is losing touch with his constituents in the Panhandle.
Overall, however, Craig is in a better position to protect Idaho than a freshman Democrat would be.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = EDITORIAL, ENDORSEMENT, COLUMN - Our view CREDIT = D.F. Oliveria and Rebecca Nappi/For the editorial board