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Labrador enters Idaho’s 1st CD race

Mon., Dec. 7, 2009, 5:32 p.m.

State Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, shares a laugh with his kids before announcing his candidacy in the GOP race for a chance to take on 1st District Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick in 2010. (Betsy Russell)
State Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, shares a laugh with his kids before announcing his candidacy in the GOP race for a chance to take on 1st District Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick in 2010. (Betsy Russell)

State Rep. Raul Labrador entered the GOP primary contest for a chance to challenge Idaho’s Democratic 1st District Congressman Walt Minnick today, even as a fellow Republican lawmaker urged him to abandon his run.

Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, a backer of GOP rival Vaughn Ward, sent out a press release criticizing Labrador’s work as an immigration attorney and labeling him “pro-illegal immigrant.”

Labrador, a second-term state representative from Eagle who was an outspoken opponent last session of Gov. Butch Otter’s proposals to raise gas taxes and car registration fees to fund road work, dismissed Jorgenson’s criticisms and said he’s uniquely qualified to address the issue as a congressman.

As for Jorgenson, Labrador said, “You know, Sen. Jorgenson is usually a person who doesn’t have a lot of friends. So I wouldn’t worry too much about what Sen. Jorgenson has to say.”

Labrador said the nation’s immigration system is “broken,” and called for better enforcement of current laws, more officers on the nation’s borders, and a guest worker program “that works … without amnesty.”

Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake, sent out a pro-Labrador statement later in the day lauding Labrador by six times describing him as “conservative,” in the course of just five sentences.

Jorgenson is a backer of Vaughn Ward, an Iraq war veteran who’s been running hard for the post since last spring, and whose campaign Web site touts “conservative Republican values.”

“I’ve had many debates and discussions with Raul Labrador and I do know his history on this,” Jorgenson declared, adding, “I don’t want him as a representative for me in a federal office.”

Jorgenson has sponsored several unsuccessful anti-immigration bills in the Legislature targeting Idaho employers. In his press release, Jorgenson wrote, “Raul Labrador is an immigration attorney and admits to defending illegal immigrants in his law practice.”

Labrador, 42, said jobs and the economy are his top issue.

“I will fight to protect your liberty and freedom from an ever-expanding federal government,” he told a loudly cheering crowd of about 50 people in Boise on Monday morning, and a smaller gathering of about 20 at the Coeur d’Alene Resort on Monday afternoon. “Now is not the time to send an unproven person to Washington.”

That was a direct jab at his primary opponent, Ward, who’s making his first run for office.

“Everyone claims that they’re conservative, but I have a record that shows that I’m a conservative candidate and it shows that I have stood up for the values that people want in Congress,” Labrador said.

Born in Puerto Rico, Labrador is a Brigham Young University graduate and married father of five who holds a law degree from the University of Washington. He’s had his own law practice in Boise and Nampa for the past decade, specializing in criminal law and immigration law.

Labrador first indicated he’d run for Congress last month after state Rep. Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, dropped out of the race. Another candidate who’s expressed some tentative interest in the race is former GOP Congressman Bill Sali, whom Minnick narrowly defeated two years ago.

Labrador said he’s “absolutely” in the race to stay, regardless of whether Sali also runs.

Asked about immigration, Labrador said, “The immigration issue is one of the most important issues facing America today, and we have a broken immigration system, and I’m the only candidate in this race who actually understands the immigration issue, because I’m actually somebody who has actually studied it and worked on it for many years. We have to have a system where amnesty is not the solution, but we have to have a way that we can solve the immigration problem, and there’s good, conservative ways that we can solve this problem.”

Ward’s immigration position, posted on his Web site, is similar, calling for protecting and securing borders; opposing amnesty or any “pathway to citizenship” for those who’ve entered the country illegally; and advocating “thoughtful, common sense reforms that do not reward those who break our laws.”

Ward’s campaign issued a statement Monday saying, “We welcome Raul to the race and look forward to discussing the issues that are important to Idahoans and our differences on those issues, including illegal immigration.”

A retired Boise physician, Allan Salzberg, also has said he’ll run in the GOP primary. Idaho’s primary election is May 25.

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