BOISE - Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick has launched a new TV ad that repeats his earlier criticisms of GOP rival Raul Labrador, plus adds a new one: That Labrador “dishonored Idaho’s veterans by voting against a program honoring those who died serving our nation.”
Labrador’s campaign called the new claim “a misleading smear.” It refers to Labrador’s vote in 2009 against legislation creating a new “Gold Star Family” license plate for the families of military members killed in combat. The bill, which made the special plates free for spouses or parents but included fees for other relatives, passed and was signed into law; Labrador was among five House members and four senators to vote against the bill.
Gov. Butch Otter, when he signed the bill into law - it was among four new specialty plates approved that year - said, “I’m not going to pick on any one of ‘em, but if there was ever an appropriate specialty license plate, this is it.”
According to House Transportation Committee hearing minutes, two committee members “expressed that while they were committed to not supporting any more specialty plates, they wanted to express their respect and support for veterans.”
Phil Hardy, spokesman for the Labrador campaign, said Labrador was one of the two. “There’s been a proliferation of these plates,” Hardy said. “There’s anecdotal evidence that police don’t like them because they’re very confusing, there’s so many of them in Idaho.”
Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, the bill’s sponsor, a retired Navy veteran and a Labrador campaign volunteer, said he tried to talk Labrador into backing the bill. “I remember talking to him and telling him that I had a bill, although he hated special plates, he was going to have to vote for - we teased each other a lot. When I rolled it out, he was like, ‘Oh, God, why do you do this to me?’ … But he stuck to his guns for his previous commitment” to oppose all new specialty license plates, Hagedorn said.
Hardy said, “Raul Labrador expressed his respect and support for veterans - it’s just another misleading smear.”
John Foster, Minnick’s campaign spokesman, said, “It was a surprising vote and one that, in our travels around the district, appalled a lot of Idaho veterans we’ve spoken to. It was a vote frankly against honoring people who served, so we thought it was an important message to relay to voters.”
The new Minnick ad, entitled “Who’s right?”, began airing late Tuesday in both the Boise and Spokane TV markets. It repeats criticisms of Labrador for having operated an immigration website that Minnick says offered “advice to illegal immigrants seeking amnesty;” and for voting “to weaken laws protecting domestic violence victims,” votes that Labrador has defended as making the laws more enforceable.
It then touts Minnick as an Army veteran and Idaho businessman who “got benefits owed to 900 Idaho veterans,” moves Minnick’s campaign said came through the freshman congressman’s constituent service operation. It also, as in earlier ads, cites the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste’s designation of Minnick as a “taxpayer hero,” the first Democrat to win that designation from the group since 2006.