Palin endorses Ward in Idaho race

Main opponent backed by ex-congressman Sali

BOISE – Sarah Palin has endorsed Vaughn Ward in Idaho’s 1st U.S. Congressional District GOP primary, adding oomph to a race in which the two leading contenders have been trying to out-conservative each other.

“I’m happy to support Vaughn Ward because I know that he believes in the same common-sense conservative ideals that we cherish,” the former Alaska governor said in an announcement. She also endorsed two other veterans who are seeking congressional seats in Florida and Illinois.

Ward, a decorated veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, is vying with state Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, for a chance to challenge Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick. Three lesser-known Republicans, Michael Chadwick, of Post Falls, Allan Salzberg, of Boise, and Harley Brown, of Idaho City, also have filed for the seat.

Ward said, “Gov. Palin has provided great leadership for the Republican Party and I am proud to have her support. I look forward to promoting our conservative values in Congress.”

Labrador, for his part, said, “You know, I like Sarah Palin, she’s a well-respected conservative, but it’s a little disappointing that she continues to support moderate Republicans in primary elections,” pointing to the Arizona challenge faced by U.S. Sen. John McCain, Palin’s running mate in the 2008 presidential election.

Ward was Nevada state chairman for the McCain-Palin campaign for five months. In August, the former vice presidential candidate’s father and father-in-law came to Idaho to stump for Ward; Palin, along with her family, has roots in Idaho, lived in Sandpoint and graduated from the University of Idaho.

Ward said he expects Palin to help him with fundraising and probably to visit the state to campaign for him. “She’s an Idahoan,” he said. “I’m pretty confident we’re going to get her here.”

A week and a half ago, Labrador was endorsed by conservative former Idaho congressman Bill Sali, who also took the opportunity to belittle Ward, saying, “Sending Vaughn Ward to Washington, D.C., is a little bit like sending a Boy Scout to Iraq. He doesn’t have any experience casting tough votes.”

Ward countered Tuesday: “People are saying we want a citizen, we want somebody who’s not a part of the status quo. … We do need more Boy Scouts, we do need more Marines, we need more veterans going to Congress.”

Labrador, an attorney, said he thought his Sali endorsement was “quite significant,” saying, “I think the primary voters in the Republican Party have a great deal of respect for Bill Sali and the work that he did for the state of Idaho.”

Palin, in her statement endorsing Ward, said, “He’ll carry the conservative banner to Washington and will rein in the reckless growth of government to get it back on our side.”

Idaho’s primary election is May 25.

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