Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says this year’s primary election in Idaho has brought “a bigger fight,” saying, “I think it’s a fight for the heart and soul of the Republican Party.”
“There are people like me who read the Constitution and believe we should do what the Constitution says; there are other folks who kind of think that they should follow a certain set of philosophical viewpoints,” Wasden told The Spokesman-Review’s editorial board on Friday.
“The rational Republicans want to sit down and read the Constitution and do what it says,” Wasden declared.
Wasden is Idaho’s longest-serving state attorney general; he’s seeking a fourth term, and faces a challenge in the primary from Boise attorney C.T. “Chris” Troupis, the lawyer who represented the Idaho Republican Party in its successful lawsuit against the state to close the GOP primary to anyone other than registered Republicans.
Troupis has been critical of Wasden’s record on health care reform and the use of public lands in Idaho. Wasden defended his record, noting that he was one of the first state attorneys general in the nation to sue to overturn the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
“We pursued that case all the way to the Supreme Court,” Wasden said. “I disagreed with the court’s analysis. I disagreed specifically with the chief justice – I think he’s wrong. But here’s the difference. He has a title. Mine’s attorney general. His trumps mine. He has the constitutional power to make that decision. … I’m obligated to abide by that just like every other citizen.”
Troupis has been particularly critical of the state Land Board’s investments in commercial property as part of the state endowment, which the state Constitution requires to be managed for the maximum long-term return to fund schools. As required by the state Constitution, Wasden both serves on the board and serves as its attorney.
“His actions took business opportunities and jobs away from the people,” Troupis said on Facebook this week. “As attorney general, I will not tolerate any state competition with private business.”
But Wasden said, “In 1890, our founding fathers put us in competition in the marketplace. When they say we’ve got to obtain the maximum long-term financial return, they put us in business.”
He said, “As a matter of philosophy, I don’t think government should compete with the private sector. But this isn’t a function of my own personal philosophy. … It’s what the Constitution says. The Constitution says you’re in business, you’re in business to make as much money as you can, for a limited purpose – it’s for the purpose of supporting the schools.”
Wasden said it’s his duty as the state’s attorney general to uphold the Constitution, regardless of his personal opinions. He noted that he refused to challenge an approved citizen initiative legalizing tribal casinos, even though he personally opposes all gambling. “I said the state is my client, it’s the state law that I’m required to defend, and that’s what I will do.”
He’s citing the same principle in defending Idaho’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, which is now being challenged in federal court. “It’s what the Constitution says,” he said.
The primary election is May 20; the winner will face Boise attorney Bruce Bistline in the November general election.