He’s a Harvar-deducated lawyer in Wrangler jeans and old hiking boots who comes home from Washington, D.C., every weekend to spend Sundays with his family in Idaho Falls.
U.S. Rep. Mike Crapo isn’t as well-known to those in the northern half of Idaho as he is down south, where he has served three terms in Congress and previously headed the state Senate. But that’s about to change.
Crapo announced Monday that he’ll run for the U.S. Senate seat to be vacated when Dirk Kempthorne runs for governor of Idaho. That means Crapo will be stumping for votes all across the state, including up north.
Crapo, 46, said he expects to raise between $2 million and $3 million for his Senate bid. As of the last campaign finance report in June, he had $193,389 in his campaign war chest and no debts.
The Republican congressman said he has worked with lots of people and groups from North Idaho, including communities concerned about Superfund cleanup in the Silver Valley, Indian tribes and businesses and industry.
“I believe that we have a solid record of working with all of Idaho,” Crapo said.
That’s come in part, he said, because he resolved when he first went to Congress to respond to any call from anyone in Idaho, whether or not the caller was from his district. Although some groups, like tribes, actively sought to work with Crapo because of rocky relationships with 1st District Rep. Helen Chenoweth, Crapo said his policy also was in place when the 1st District seat was held by former Rep. Larry LaRocco.
Crapo, a Republican, serves in House leadership and is known as a reformer, but with a low-key style that contrasts with that of the more bombastic House speaker, Newt Gingrich.
He points proudly to his “Lockbox” legislation, which passed the House four times but hasn’t yet come to a vote in the Senate.
The legislation requires that money cut from spending bills go to reduce the nation’s budget deficit - not to other programs, as often happens now. Crapo said the legislation is designed to prevent showy “spending cuts” that actually are “sneaked off into other spending.”
If elected to the Senate, he said the lockbox idea will be the first legislation he’ll propose.
Crapo also lists among his legislative accomplishments his work on the Farm Bill, which he said added “more market-oriented reforms to the agriculture industry” and reduced government interference.
And he pushed for changes to open up the way the House operates through the “Truth in Voting Act.” Some of those reforms succeeded, including applying the Freedom of Information Act to Congress.
Crapo is vice chairman of a congressional subcommittee that handles energy policy, nuclear waste and Superfund reauthorization. He also serves on the Resources, Agriculture and Commerce committees in the House.
He said the decision to run for the Senate was a tough one, mainly because he has accumulated seniority and key committee assignments in the House. But he said he decided that in the Senate, where states with small populations have the same number of senators as larger states, he could make more difference for Idaho.
Although Crapo’s family remains in Idaho Falls while he commutes to Washington, D.C., he said he probably would have run for several more terms in the House if he didn’t run for the Senate, so the decision doesn’t increase the pressure on his family.
An Idaho Falls native, Crapo holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Brigham Young University and graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1977. He and wife Susan have five children.
State Democratic Party executive director Karen White said former Democratic Chairman Bill Mauk and Bannock County Commissioner Tom Katsilometes are considering running against Crapo for the Senate seat.
“He’s very popular in the 2nd Congressional District, but Mr. Crapo has never had to run statewide, and it’s a very different type of campaign,” White said.
Crapo won his seat in 1992 with 61 percent of the vote, easily defeating state Controller J.D. Williams. He won re-election in 1994, racking up 75 percent over a little-known challenger, and was re-elected in 1996 with 69 percent of the vote.
Crapo’s move leaves his 2nd District seat open, setting the stage for a possible comeback by former Democratic Rep. Richard Stallings. Democrats now hold no seats in Idaho’s congressional delegation, and Williams is the only Democrat among statewide elected officials.
Stallings said Monday that he’ll announce his plans soon.
“I’ve got the track record, I’ve served, and I think I have a lot of support,” he said. “Those last two elections I was winning by well over 60 percent…so I think I would have a very good shot at winning that seat.”
Republicans who have expressed interest in the 2nd District seat include Rep. Mark Stubbs, R-Twin Falls; former state Sen. Ann Rydalch of Idaho Falls; Boise investment consultant and former gubernatorial candidate Doug Dorn; and state House Speaker Mike Simpson, R-Blackfoot.
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