BOISE – Republican U.S. House hopeful Raul Labrador came out swinging at a debate Tuesday, criticizing opponent Vaughn Ward for his lack of political experience and for wavering on earmarks and other issues.
Ward, a U.S. Marine and former John McCain aide, countered that he had taken steps to correct mistakes on the campaign trail, jabbed at Labrador’s stance on immigration reform and stressed the need for more veterans in Congress, not “status quo” politicians.
The two are vying in the May 25 GOP primary to decide who will face Rep. Walt Minnick, D-Idaho, in November for Idaho’s 1st District congressional seat.
Both Ward and Labrador, a GOP state House member from Eagle, emphasized the need to limit the reach and spending of the federal government. Neither said they would support raising taxes to help finance Social Security.
But there are plenty of areas where they differ.
In the past several weeks, Idaho media have reported that Ward has made inconsistent remarks on earmarks and his stance on the repeal of the 17th Amendment, which shifted the job of electing U.S. senators from state legislatures to voters.
Ward said in a campaign ad in January that he wants to ban earmarks, which direct taxpayer cash from Congress to specific projects in members’ states. But he later said at a campaign stop in Homedale that earmarks ensure federal money goes where it has state or local support.
“You have one candidate that’s willing to do anything and say anything to get elected and you have one candidate that’s willing to stand by his principles,” Labrador said.
Ward also found fault with Labrador, accusing him of missing 40 votes in the 2010 Idaho Legislature.
One of those votes came during a committee hearing on an immigration bill that Labrador co-sponsored. The bill, which would have punished employers found guilty of knowingly hiring illegal aliens, failed in committee.
“I’m not infallible,” Ward said. “There are going to be mistakes along the way.”
Neither candidate would pledge to limit his terms in office if elected; Labrador said he opposes term limits, while Ward favored a constitutional amendment to impose them.
Both candidates opposed any additional Idaho wilderness, including Rep. Mike Simpson’s Boulder-White Clouds bill, which the state’s current congressional delegation unanimously supports.