State Rep. Raul Labrador entered the GOP primary contest for a chance to challenge Idaho’s Democratic 1st District Congressman Walt Minnick on Monday, 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, immediately criticized Labrador’s work as an immigration attorney and labeled 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.
“You know, Sen. Jorgenson is usually a person who doesn’t have a lot of friends,” Labrador said. “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 five sentences.
Jorgenson supports Ward, an Iraq war veteran who’s been running 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 said, 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 a news 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 crowd of about 50 people in Boise on Monday morning and a 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.”
Ward is making his first run for office.
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 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.