BOISE – Four of the candidates for Idaho’s open U.S. Senate seat ripped into the absent fifth, GOP candidate Jim Risch, as they debated Thursday on live TV.
“I would ask him … why he is spending so much time lying to the Idaho people,” Libertarian Kent Marmon declared, criticizing Risch’s campaign ads and public statements. “I would ask him why he thinks he has to do that in order to be elected to the U.S. Senate.”
Independent candidate Pro-Life said he wants to know why Risch isn’t speaking out in support of a nationwide ban on abortion. “He said that it’s a state issue – now, you could say slavery was a state issue,” said Pro-Life, who legally changed his name from Marvin Richardson.
Democrat Larry LaRocco criticized Risch’s move as governor to reduce property taxes while raising sales taxes.
“People want change,” LaRocco said. “They’ve now had a chance to digest the tax shift. People are paying more sales tax. Really what he did is he gave the property tax relief to the bulk of the largest corporations in the state – we are all paying for it.”
Independent Rex Rammell said, “I don’t like Jim Risch’s principles. He doesn’t follow the Republican Party’s platform – he’s not conservative.”
The four candidates squared off in a debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Idaho Press Club. It was broadcast statewide on Idaho Public Television.
The matchup was part of “Idaho Debates,” a series of debates in the major Idaho races that’s taken place each election cycle for the past three decades. Risch was the only major-party candidate to skip the debates.
As moderator Marcia Franklin, of Idaho Public TV, introduced the four participants Thursday night, she said, “The other candidate in this race, Republican Jim Risch, declined repeated requests to participate in this debate.”
Risch said earlier he would appear in four other debates. However, one of those was canceled by its sponsor. He debated three of the other candidates Tuesday in an event sponsored by Boise TV station KTVB and several media partners. He also participated in a televised debate a week earlier in Lewiston.
Risch also skipped a student-organized debate in September at Caldwell’s College of Idaho that featured the other four candidates.
Risch noted in Tuesday’s event that he’s agreed to appear with his opponents at one more forum. He told the TV audience, “I hope you’ll all join us.” That forum will take place during a Meridian Chamber of Commerce luncheon next week.
LaRocco, a former two-term 1st District congressman, said, “You govern as you campaign, and if you think about that, this is a warm-up, it’s an interview for what we’re going to do later after we get elected. And Jim Risch has dodged debates.”
Risch is the state’s lieutenant governor.