Flamboyant former Idaho gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell said he’s given up on Idaho politics and is moving to Wyoming after losing a state legislative race for a north-central Idaho seat last month.
“When I lost the race, there was nothing here to hold me,” said Rammell, a veterinarian and former elk rancher from eastern Idaho who relocated to Idaho County two years ago, though his family stayed in eastern Idaho.
Rammell, known for campaigning with a giant inflatable T. rex and a decorated RV and tangling repeatedly with Idaho Fish and Game, never made a go of it in Idaho County. He now believes Wyoming fits his politics better.
“I probably was too optimistic that I could turn Idaho into Wyoming,” Rammell said, citing that state’s lack of a personal or corporate income tax and its strong stand against wolves.
Besides, he said, he’s lined up a veterinary job at a livestock auction in Torrington, Wyo., that’ll pay six figures. “The money is twice what I can make here,” he said. “The economy is pretty poor around here, and I just can’t justify staying here anymore. And the majority of the people in Idaho seem to think it’s all right. They need to go to Wyoming and find out what a real economy is like.”
In Idaho County, Rammell said, he’s been “doing vet work out of my truck and starving.”
An advocate of shooting wolves who once joked that he’d like to buy hunting tags to hunt President Barack Obama, Rammell campaigned on a platform of declaring Idaho “sovereign and independent of the federal government,” replacing public schools with block grants to parents, eliminating personal and corporate income taxes and allowing only county sheriffs to enforce laws.
Rammell got just 5 percent of the vote when he ran for the U.S. Senate as an independent in 2008 against current Sen. Jim Risch. But when he ran for governor in the GOP primary in 2010, he beat incumbent Gov. Butch Otter in two counties, Benewah and Idaho, and took 26 percent of the vote, placing second to Otter, who got 55 percent.
Rammell challenged Rep. Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton, for a House seat in the new District 7 in last month’s GOP primary; the district includes Idaho County. But he got just 30.3 percent of the vote in the three-way primary contest last month, with Ed Galloway at 21.9 percent and McMillan winning with 47.8 percent; she faces independent Jon Cantamessa on the November ballot.
Rammell hints darkly that the state’s GOP establishment engineered his defeat. “They ganged up on me like they always do – they don’t want me in power,” he said.
Rammell is suing Risch, who as governor ordered Rammell’s escaped domestic elk shot in 2005 to avoid spreading disease to Idaho’s wild herds. Rammell vociferously objected, and has continued pressing his thus-far unsuccessful lawsuit; his appeal is set for arguments at the Idaho Supreme Court in August.
Rammell also has been charged with poaching, and, when he distributed fliers to jurors headed in to his trial on that charge, with jury tampering.
“Fish and Game were campaigning against me up here,” he said, “rightly so because they knew that if I had any position in the Legislature, I would’ve went after ’em for all of the stuff they do that I disagree with.”
He said, “I hope that things change, but I wouldn’t bet a nickel that it will.”