On Tuesday, Idaho Republicans will be doing something they haven’t done since 1994: picking a GOP challenger they hope can unseat an incumbent Democrat in the 1st Congressional District.
Five Republicans (plus an independent and a Libertarian) will appear on the ballot against freshman Congressman Walt Minnick, but the contest has turned into a showdown between military veteran and ex-CIA employee Vaughn Ward and state Rep. Raul Labrador, an attorney. Both men list addresses in Eagle, just north of Boise, but they’re even closer ideological than geographical neighbors.
On the most prominent social and fiscal issues, Labrador and Vaughn are solidly in the same conservative camp. Gun rights? They’re for them. Reproductive rights? They’re against.
Government should be small and restrained. Taxes should be low. Borders should be secure.
Picking an effective carrier of the party’s standard will require Republican voters to look beyond the issues.
Endorsements are sometimes helpful, and Ward claims the most prominent names – former Govs. Dirk Kempthorne and Phil Batt and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, for example.
Nevertheless, give Labrador the edge for hands-on lawmaking experience. Ward has worked as an aide on Capitol Hill, but Labrador is a legislator and has proved himself in that capacity.
Meanwhile, several disconcerting disclosures that have emerged from Ward’s campaign tilt the scales in Labrador’s favor.
He was delinquent in paying his property taxes. He also declined to report some of his wife’s financial assets on his campaign disclosure forms as required by law. Both situations were corrected only after they were made public.
Most recently, it was shown that several comments on Ward’s official website were taken, practically word for word, from other political figures’ sites.
An occasional oversight is one thing, a pattern of missteps suggests that a candidate lacks a measure of meticulousness that we prefer to see in public officials.
After Tuesday, the general election face-off between Minnick and his Republican challenger will sharpen. We believe the interests of the state will best be served if the final months of the campaign can focus on substantive issues and avoid distractions. Labrador represents the more promising choice.