BOISE – The Club for Growth, a national group that funneled money to bankroll one-term 1st District Idaho Rep. Bill Sali’s run for Congress in 2006, announced last week that it is not only endorsing 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson’s GOP primary challenger, Bryan Smith of Idaho Falls – it also recruited him to run for the seat.
The Washington, D.C.-based group sent out a timeline “showing how the Club for Growth PAC, for the first time in history, used the Internet to solicit a viable primary challenger to an incumbent member of Congress.” The organization said it launched a website, www.PrimaryMy Congressman.com, in late February; tallied up submissions over the next month and a half and noticed “dozens of recommendations” for Smith as a challenger for Simpson; contacted Smith on April 12 at his law office to ask if he was interested in running; and interviewed him May 6 at the Club for Growth offices in D.C. Smith announced his candidacy June 27.
“We’re confident that he’ll be a strong conservative alternative to RINO incumbent Mike Simpson,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola. “The Club for Growth PAC is proud to endorse his candidacy.”
Smith, a first-time candidate, said he’s already raised $149,000 for his run, but his campaign finance report hasn’t yet been filed to disclose the numbers or sources of the funds.
The website lists 10 incumbents for whom the group was seeking challengers. Only Simpson is shown as having drawn one as a result.
In 2006 with $1.1 million in Club for Growth’s support, Sali won a six-way GOP primary for an open seat with just 25.8 percent of the vote, then went on to defeat Democrat Larry Grant in the general election, 49.9 percent to 44.8 percent. Two years later, Sali lost to Democrat Walt Minnick, who beat him with 50.6 percent of the vote to Sali’s 49.4 percent. Minnick served one term; that seat is now held by second-term GOP Rep. Raul Labrador.
Smith said he’s honored to have the group’s backing.
“It is a group that shares the same conservative principles and values as I do and values I wish to bring to Washington,” he said.
Simpson, the former speaker of the Idaho House, is an eight-term representative who now is chairman of a key appropriations subcommittee.
Simpson sent out an announcement of his own last week: He said he’s raised $300,000 in the most recent fundraising quarter, though his report also isn’t in yet. His campaign called it “a tremendous response to his conservative message of limited government and fiscal discipline.”
Up on the roof
In a new public service TV ad sponsored by the Idaho Department of Lands and the U.S. Forest Service, Gov. Butch Otter is shown on a ladder raking pine needles off the roof of his Pine, Idaho, cabin, as well as standing on a porch roof pruning low-hanging branches. He’s urging Idahoans who live in the wildland-urban interface to “get defensive” and reduce wildfire risk to their homes.
“Join me in being firewise,” the governor says in the ad. “Learn more at idahofirewise.org.” That website, sponsored by an array of agencies and organizations, is aimed at educating Idahoans about wildfire and promoting “firewise communities.”
The ad was filmed at Otter’s cabin in an area that was threatened by last summer’s massive Trinity Ridge Fire. Jon Hanian, Otter’s press secretary, who was at the filming, said the 71-year-old governor seemed at ease with the tasks he performed, “although he did admit he doesn’t like heights.”
Hanian said, “He was comfortable – I wasn’t. It made me nervous.”
High gas prices
Idahoans are now paying the seventh-highest gas prices in the country, AAA reported last week, at an average $3.75 a gallon, down about 5 cents from a month ago, but well above the $3.48 national average. Washington is even higher, ranking fourth in the nation at $3.79.
AAA Idaho said gas prices mostly have been dropping around the nation, but western states haven’t seen the big drop. Now, with the uncertainty in Egypt, the motorist group expects gas prices to rise again.
“We’re constantly reminded that oil is an international commodity, priced in ways that may make no sense here in Idaho,” said Dave Carlson, AAA Idaho spokesman. “Motorists are also influenced by regional supply fluctuations that they have no potential to influence.”
Nationwide, the most expensive gas was in Hawaii at $4.30 a gallon, followed by Alaska at $4.04 and California at $3.98.