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Minnick: Jobs are No. 1 priority

Sessions seek to connect constituents, federal funds

BOISE – Idaho’s freshman U.S. Congressman Walt Minnick says in seven months in office he’s become convinced that creating new jobs in Idaho is the most pressing issue he can address, and there’s federal money, contracts and more that could help – if Idahoans just had a little help to tap into them.

During Congress’ five-week summer break, Minnick announced he’ll launch an “economic blitz” in Idaho, holding four events around the 1st Congressional District to bring together businesses, communities and economic development officials with federal officials, his congressional staffers and other resources to help them get at the federal funding.

“It’s making sure that going forward, that no opportunity goes by because we haven’t made proper effort,” Minnick said.

The federal economic stimulus bill and all the regular federal appropriations bills, which Congress is finalizing now, contain funding opportunities that could create jobs in Idaho, the Democratic congressman said.

“Most of these funding opportunities are on a competitive process, so if we want to get a broadband grant for Kamiah, Idaho, we’re going to have to make sure that that application for Kamiah is cost-competitive and compelling as a proposal that comes from Ohio or Florida or someplace else,” Minnick said.

Minnick, the sole Democrat among Idaho’s congressional delegation, hasn’t yet announced a re-election bid, but he’s already piled up $598,616 in campaign contributions for the 2010 election, including donations from some prominent Idaho Republicans.

Two Republicans, Iraq veteran Vaughn Ward and Idaho House Majority Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts, are vying for a chance to challenge Minnick in 2010. Ward had raised $125,276 through June 30; Roberts reported no campaign fundraising. Former GOP Rep. Bill Sali, whom Minnick defeated and who’s been mulling a comeback bid, reported raising $8,888 through June 30.

Ward, in a campaign statement, was critical of Minnick’s “blitz” Wednesday, citing congressional spending backed by what he described as “his boss Nancy Pelosi.”

Ward’s campaign said, “Instead of mortgaging our children’s and grandchildren’s futures, Congress needs to focus on creating jobs through small business, providing real tax relief for Idahoan families, and fight to keep the federal government out of our daily lives.”

Roberts couldn’t be reached for comment.

For more information about the events, call Minnick’s office at (208) 888-3188.