Longtime Idaho state Rep. Shirley Ringo, a Democrat from Moscow, announced Monday that she’ll try to unseat second-term GOP Rep. Raul Labrador in 2014.
Labrador, a high-profile tea party favorite, said last week he’ll run for a third term in Congress representing Idaho’s 1st District rather than run for governor. Labrador said speculation to that effect had gotten out of hand.
Ringo, a former 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 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.
First elected to the state House in 1998, Ringo said she’d already decided to not seek an eighth term in office 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.”
Idaho’s primary election is in May.
“I have a degree of optimism that is hard to quell,” said Ringo, 72.
Neither Labrador nor his campaign could be reached for comment Monday afternoon.