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Wasden says primary election is vote for Republican Party’s soul

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 Friday.

“The rational Republicans want to sit down and read the Constitution and do what it says,” he said.

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 to sue to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

“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 in a post 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.”

The primary election is May 20; the winner will face Boise attorney Bruce Bistline, a Democrat, in the November general election.