BOISE – When Idaho’s senior senator, Mike Crapo, last sought re-election, he made history by drawing no challenger on the ballot, just a write-in.
This time, Crapo has drawn a Democratic challenger well in advance of the 2010 election – a lawyer from New York who’s never been to Idaho.
“I’m a firm believer in contested elections, and I don’t think that the organization of the Democratic Party in Idaho has shown that it’s able to find even a noncredible candidate for the U.S. Senate against the incumbent,” said William Bryk, a bankruptcy attorney from Brooklyn, N.Y., who is taking advantage of a provision in election law requiring only that Idaho politicians be state residents by the day of the general election.
The 54-year-old Bryk took advantage of a similar provision in New Hampshire, filing in the 2000 primary for the GOP vice presidential nomination, which he won.
No one suggests the New Yorker will see the same success in Idaho’s primary, much less a general election.
Jim Hansen, executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party, said efforts were already under way to field credible candidates in 2010.
“I can tell you there are others who are looking at this, seriously looking at this, exploring it, talking it over with their employers, their boards, their families, and I am confident that we will have a really good choice of candidates,” Hansen said.
Crapo’s campaign manager, Jake Ball, said, “We don’t really know anything about him. But we’re prepared to run a vigorous campaign if we need to.”
According to Federal Election Commission records, Crapo’s campaign has more than $2.5 million in the bank for the 2010 race. Bryk, on the other hand, hasn’t raised a penny.
Bryk has run for offices including district attorney, state legislature, city council and Congress, but has never been elected. He ran for Congress as a Democrat in 1980. And eight years after his New Hampshire win on the GOP ticket in 2000, he ran again for vice president there as a Democrat and lost.
Bryk is a history buff who wrote local history columns for the now-defunct New York Sun newspaper and the New York Press, an alternative weekly. He’s married to a former theater critic for the New Yorker magazine.
Legally, he can run for the Idaho seat as long as he’s a resident of Idaho on the day of the November 2010 general election. “If the Democratic Party nominates me … I assure you I will move to Idaho,” he said. The closest he’s been to the Gem State so far is Buffalo, N.Y.
Crapo, who served three terms in Congress and eight years in the Idaho Senate before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1998, is a Harvard-educated lawyer and prostate cancer survivor who’s taken up such causes as fighting domestic violence, promoting cancer screenings and restoring Amtrak service to Southern Idaho.
“I think I might disagree with his ideas on what’s best for the country, but I think that’s probably a sincere and honest disagreement,” Bryk said. “Based on his track record, he is probably a man who has done good service to the state. I think that I could do better, but that is truly based on our politics, and it is not based on any judgment of character.”