BOISE – With the latest independent poll showing Idaho’s 1st District congressional race narrowing to a dead heat, congressman Walt Minnick and GOP rival Raul Labrador clashed in a debate Thursday on everything from wilderness to mega-loads on Highway 12.
As the two faced off before a luncheon crowd of 400 at the Boise City Club, Minnick sought to paint himself as a centrist and his rival as “so far out of the mainstream” that he wants to withdraw from the United Nations, return to gold and silver as the national currency and repeal the popular election of U.S. senators.
Labrador countered, “On the issues where I’ve been called ‘fringe’ by some people, I’m actually with the people of Idaho. I am actually in tune with the issues that are important to the people of Idaho. … I will be able to represent them well.” He asked the audience, “Are you better off today than you were two years ago?”
Labrador said, “It’s his party that has destroyed the future of this country. I believe that we need to do something that is different.”
Here are some of the issues on which the two differed at the debate:
Asked about Republican Idaho congressman Mike Simpson’s Boulder-White Clouds wilderness bill, Minnick said he supports it.
Labrador said, “I’m with Gov. (Butch) Otter on this issue. … I will vote no on this legislation.” Otter opposes any new wilderness designations.
Mega-loads on Highway 12
Labrador said, “I don’t think that there is anything wrong with what the state is doing. … What I see in this case is a group of environmentalists that are trying to prevent this from happening. … I don’t see that there is a problem.”
Minnick responded, “I am not opposed to those shipments.” But he said he wants a public hearing to address questions that have arisen over the proposal for giant truckloads that will take up both lanes of the two-lane highway, and hopes to call such a hearing after the election, so “the best decision is made.”
Asked about campaign finances and the Citizens United decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that corporations and unions can spend unlimited amounts on independent ads, Labrador said, “I think everybody should be able to give whatever amount of money they want to give for a campaign, but it should be disclosed … within 24 hours so the public gets to know who’s supporting whom and where the money’s coming from.”
Minnick said, “I think the Citizens United decision was the worst decision of the Supreme Court since Dred Scott … to ignore the distinction between a real person and an artificial creation of law. … We need to … have spending limits, we need to have shorter campaigns, we need to have equal access to the public media, we need to repeal or overturn Citizens United. It is a bad decision.”
In response to an audience member’s question about both sides’ “appalling” negative ads, Minnick said, “There is not a single fact in my advertisements that is not well-documented.” Labrador said, “I think Mr. Minnick’s campaign is going to go down in history as one of the most shameful in the history of Idaho,” noting that some of the ads have criticized his work as an immigration lawyer. “Yes, I am an immigration lawyer, and I am proud to be an immigration lawyer,” Labrador said. “I’m an expert in immigration law – that’s actually what makes me a good candidate for Congress.”
Most important initiative
Asked the single most important initiative they’ll work on if they win the election, Labrador said immigration. “I will be able to actually help draft the legislation that will solve the problem of illegal immigration,” he said. “From the first day I will have an impact.”
Minnick said he’ll focus on the economy. “Getting the economy going, creating jobs and doing it by reducing the deficit and getting spending under control, is what we’ve got to attack,” he said.