BOISE – Idaho GOP congressional candidate Raul Labrador has ended an awkward dance with the National Republican Congressional Committee by agreeing to join its “Young Guns” candidate recruitment program, after refusing earlier.
“With the election coming so quickly, I don’t want the NRCC changing our campaign themes and strategy,” Labrador said. “My campaign will reflect Idaho values, not the priorities of Washington, D.C.” But, he said, “After being assured they would not interfere with our campaign’s Idaho-focused strategy, I agreed to participate.”
The NRCC on Friday gave Labrador its “On the Radar” status, the first of three tiers in the candidate recruitment program. His GOP primary opponent, Vaughn Ward, was at the program’s top tier and was heavily backed by the NRCC before Labrador upset him in the May primary election.
Labrador’s shift in position on the national program came amid something of a rough week for the GOP challenger, who saw incumbent Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick endorsed by the Associated General Contractors, an influential business group that usually backs Republicans. Labrador also moved his campaign headquarters outside the 1st Congressional District and into state GOP campaign headquarters to “conserve resources.”
Labrador spokeswoman China Gum said Monday, “When he’s elected, his congressional office will be in the district.”
Labrador’s initial concerns about the national GOP candidate program are consistent with statements he’s made about other traditional GOP supporters, from deriding the contractors group as tax-raisers after its endorsement of Minnick to declaring that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which also endorsed Minnick, has a “big-government tilt.”
“I think I’m critical of business as usual,” Labrador said Monday. “I think if you talk to individuals throughout the state about what their fears and their concerns are, every one of them will tell you that they don’t like the way things are being done in Washington, D.C.”
Joanna Burgos, NRCC spokeswoman, said Labrador told the national group months ago that he had decided to “opt out” of the Young Guns program, which offers help with fundraising. There are 124 GOP congressional candidates in the recruitment program, including 40 who’ve made the top tier by meeting fundraising, voter contact and outreach benchmarks.
Minnick said it’s immaterial whether Labrador’s formally in the program or not. “He’s clearly seeking the help of people in Washington as well as in Idaho,” Minnick said, noting that Minnick’s GOP colleagues in Idaho’s congressional delegation recently hosted a Washington, D.C., fundraiser for Labrador.
Minnick, who defeated one-term GOP Rep. Bill Sali in 2008, has made his mark as a conservative “blue dog” Democrat. Labrador is trying to tie him to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. As of the last campaign finance report, Minnick had a $1 million edge in campaign cash.