Longtime Idaho state Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, announced Monday that she’ll seek Idaho’s 1st District congressional seat in 2014, the first opponent to emerge for second-term GOP Rep. Raul Labrador.
Labrador, a high-profile tea party favorite, just announced last week that he’ll run for a third term in Congress, rather than run for governor of Idaho, in an effort to quiet speculation that he said was getting out of hand.
Ringo, a former longtime high school math teacher who holds a key seat on the Legislature’s joint budget committee, said, “We all know that Congress doesn’t have a very positive approval rating at this time, with their inability to compromise and get things done. And I have the sense that Congressman Labrador is part of the problem.”
Ringo acknowledged that she faces an “uphill battle” as a member of Idaho’s small Democratic minority, but said she’s talked with moderate Republicans who are “not particularly happy with the direction that some of the more extreme members of their party are taking.”
Ringo is a former Latah County Democratic Party chair, and is one of the most unabashedly liberal members of Idaho’s Legislature. She was an outspoken opponent of state school Superintendent Tom Luna’s “Students Come First” school reform laws, which voters rejected last year.
She said her legislative accomplishments have included influencing state budgets, helping struggling constituents who had problems with state agencies, and passing legislation allowing victims of domestic violence to register to vote without making public their addresses. “I had run into some people who didn’t vote because they were so afraid that their address could be traced,” she said.
First elected to the state House in 1998, Ringo said she’d already decided not to seek an 8th House term in 2014 when she was approached by state Democratic Party Chairman Larry Kenck about the 1st District race.
“I think that the time could be right for a bit of a change in Idaho politics,” Ringo said, “and I think that we need to get people back in Washington, D.C. that really understand what you might call the art of politics … trying to work with people with other ideas to reach some sort of resolution, so that people in the country aren’t really suffering from lack of action, as I think they definitely have been lately.”
Idaho’s primary election is in May of 2014.
“I have a degree of optimism that is hard to quell,” said Ringo, 72. “If it turns out that by the time the primary’s over, that I’m the one the party has chosen, I’ll certainly be honored to be that choice and I’ll give it all the energy I have and I’ll run with the intention of winning.”
Neither Labrador nor his campaign could immediately be reached for comment.