BOISE – Pat Takasugi, former state agriculture director and a prominent Republican, has signed on as campaign chairman for Matt Salisbury’s GOP primary challenge to Rep. Bill Sali. Salisbury, 34, is an Iraq war veteran and GOP activist who now works for Phillips Industries, an electrical parts manufacturer.
Takasugi, a former Canyon County GOP chairman, said, “Matt understands that it takes big ideas to solve big problems, and he won’t become mired in small debates that divide us. He has the toughness, honed in the battlefields of Iraq, to lead Idaho and America into the 21st century. That’s why I volunteered to be Matt’s chairman.”
Sali most recently has been defending his comments that a Muslim serving in Congress and a Hindu prayer being offered to open a Senate session were “not what was envisioned by the founding fathers.” His term thus far has been marked by numerous “no” votes, sometimes on issues supported by his own party’s leadership, along with calls for reform in how Congress works.
Takasugi, 58, is a prominent farmer from Wilder who was appointed state agriculture director in 1996 by then-Gov. Phil Batt. He also served under Govs. Dirk Kempthorne and Jim Risch. Gov. Butch Otter replaced Takasugi this year with Celia Gould.
Takasugi has long been active in Republican politics, although this is the first time he’ll chair a congressional campaign.
“I’ve seen many a race, and they’re grueling, and people don’t say nice things about you,” Takasugi told The Spokesman-Review. “But I think it’s time. I don’t want to say anything bad about Bill Sali, but I think people are ready for an option, even in the Republican ranks – maybe especially in the Republican ranks.”
Sali won a six-way GOP primary last year with 25.8 percent of the vote to become his party’s nominee for the 1st District congressional seat, which represents North Idaho. He then narrowly defeated Democrat Larry Grant in the general election. Grant is running again, as is Democrat Rand Lewis, of Worley.
Takasugi said he’s known Salisbury for years, and the two talked about military service before Salisbury joined up. Takasugi is a former Army captain who served five years on active duty and five years in the reserves.
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