Idaho’s leaders need to vigorously reject the rhetoric of the region’s white supremacists, Democratic congressional hopeful Dan Williams said during a campaign stop here Wednesday.
“I absolutely, unequivocally” condemn North Idaho’s neo-Nazis, Williams said. “I would expect every elected official to follow the example of (Idaho Gov.) Phil Batt and state that there is no room for racism in mainstream Idaho.”
Williams’ remarks came after a stop at the Harding Family Center in Coeur d’Alene, part of a four-city tour Wednesday where he announced he is taking another run at the congressional seat held by Republican U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth.
Chenoweth defeated Williams by 6,445 of the more than 258,000 votes cast in the 1st District race in 1996.
The campaign centered too much on Chenoweth, leaving voters without enough information on him, Williams said. “I’m going to fix that this campaign so at least people will be able to make an informed decision.”
Still, Williams took a swipe at Chenoweth just a dozen lines into his announcement speech. “Will we meet the challenges of the new century or continue to talk about black helicopters and a warmclimate community?”
Last year Chenoweth said Hispanics and African Americans have never liked North Idaho because they are a warmclimate community never attracted to a “colder climate.” Chenoweth later apologized.
With his wife, Emily, and his 9-month-old son, Everett, by his side, Williams listed schools, Social Security and Idaho’s hunting and fishing lifestyle as the three main themes of his campaign.
“Free public schools are one of the greatest gifts we can give to the next generation,” Williams said. “We cannot pretend that we are educating our children for the next century when roofs are literally caving in (on) some schools. We can’t pretend to educate our children in overcrowded trailer houses, which we optimistically call ‘temporary classrooms.”’
For $1 billion, half of the price of a B-2 bomber, Idaho could take care of all of its school building needs, he said. That won’t happen as long as House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Chenoweth and Idaho Schools Superintendent Anne Fox continue to focus on funneling money to private schools, he said.
Social Security can be solvent well into the next century if politicians are willing to make tough decisions now, he said. When asked to list those tough calls, Williams said he will have more details in the coming weeks.
Williams talked about the need to preserve access to public lands and protect the state’s fish and wildlife. Proposals to transfer federal lands to the state, for example, will lead to those lands going on the auction block for lack of management funds, he said. That eventually will leave people having to pay to hunt on private lands, he said.
His son and all Idaho children will “lead happier and wealthier lives if there are salmon once more in the Salmon River,” Williams said. “I’m here to pledge to you salmon and steelhead won’t go extinct on my watch in Congress.”
Still, Williams fell right in line with Chenoweth and the rest of Idaho’s Republican congressional delegation in condemning a Forest Service proposal to temporarily stop road construction in roadless areas.
He also criticized the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to look at mining contamination outside of the Bunker Hill Superfund site.
Chenoweth issued a press release welcoming Williams to the race. Her statement called for a clean, issue-oriented campaign but immediately turned to attacking Williams as a biggovernment loving “liberal trial lawyer.”
Chenoweth’s statement included allegations that Williams and his supporters spent $5 million trying to defeat her in the last election. When asked to back up those numbers, her staff had little evidence to offer.
A national newscast by NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw in 1996 indicated unions spent upwards of $2 million on Idaho campaign issues, said Graham Paterson of the Chenoweth campaign. “We hold him in high esteem,” Paterson said of Brokaw.
And the rest of the money?
“The $5 million is our best estimate looking at the length and duration of ads, running up until the conclusion of the election,” Paterson said.
Chenoweth had more than $100,000 at the end of the year and Williams acknowledged Wednesday he cannot raise more money than her.
Overall, Chenoweth raised about $1.13 million last election cycle. Williams raised $659,000.
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