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Labrador to join GOP recuitment program

Idaho candidate previously declined to participate in ‘Young Guns’

BOISE — U.S. House hopeful Raul Labrador has reversed his decision and will join the National Republican Congressional Committee’s candidate recruitment and training program.

The program recognizes promising Republican candidates, coaches them through their campaigns and provides assistance. A candidate’s participation is also a sign of national GOP interest in their respective district.

During a fundraising trip to Washington, D.C., last week, Labrador said congressional leadership asked him to reconsider his position on the “Young Guns” program. The NRCC talked to Labrador about the program before the Idaho primary in May and confirmed last week that he had opted out of the process earlier this summer.

Labrador on Friday disclosed the reason for his initial decision not to join the program, saying he didn’t want the NRCC interfering with his campaign and had to be reassured that wouldn’t happen.

“With the election coming so quickly, I don’t want the NRCC changing our campaign themes and strategy. My campaign will reflect Idaho values, not the priorities of Washington, D.C.,” Labrador said.

“On the other hand, I want to be sure that our campaign is the best it can be,” he said. “So, after being assured they would not interfere with our campaign’s Idaho-focused strategy, I agreed to participate in the Young Guns program.”

Labrador’s opponent in the May primary, decorated Iraq veteran Vaughn Ward, was among the program’s first recruits but lost the Idaho primary amid allegations of plagiarism on the campaign trail.

Candidates in the program work with the NRCC to set benchmarks in several areas, such as fundraising. The program is open to all candidates, who can earn three different levels of distinction, with Young Guns being the highest.

Of the 123 candidates in the program, 50 are “On-the-Radar,” 34 are “Contenders” and 39 hold “Young Guns” status. In a statement Friday, the NRCC said Labrador had advanced to the first level of the program, achieving “On-the-Radar” status.

“The NRCC is committed to working with Raul Labrador as he continues to meet the rigorous goals of the Young Guns program,” said NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions.

Labrador’s reversal on the Young Guns programs arrives on the heels of his campaign’s move to a downtown Boise office to conserve resources. The new headquarters sits just outside the congressional district Labrador wants to represent.

Labrador is challenging Minnick for Idaho’s 1st Congressional District seat, though his new campaign home at the GOP Victory office in downtown Boise is in Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District. Labrador’s campaign vowed to have an office in the 1st Congressional District “when Raul is elected to U.S. Congress.”

The cash-saving move underscores Labrador’s difficulty in fundraising compared to his Democratic rival, U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick, who has more than $1 million on hand and holds a 16-to-1 cash advantage.

Republicans trying to win back 40 or more House seats in an effort to seize control of the House have set their sights on districts like Idaho’s 1st, where 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain won with 62 percent of the vote.

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