BOISE – Boise attorney Nels Mitchell launched his campaign for the U.S. Senate against Idaho Sen. Jim Risch on Tuesday, calling Risch an “out-of-touch” career politician and pledging, if elected, to serve just one six-year term.
“Six years is a long time,” Mitchell said. “I will give the people of Idaho 110 percent for the next six years, and then I intend to return to private life.”
Mitchell, 60, is making his first run for public office. He noted that legendary Idaho Democratic Sen. Frank Church had only run once, unsuccessfully, for the state Legislature before he was elected to the U.S. Senate.
“When I was growing up here in Boise, Frank Church was my hero,” Mitchell said, noting that Church served as student body president at Boise High School 29 years before Mitchell did the same.
Mitchell is an unabashed Democrat in a state where Republicans now hold every seat in Idaho’s congressional delegation, every statewide office and 80 percent of the seats in the Legislature. Introducing his 91-year-old mother, Frankie Mitchell, he said, “My mom attributes her good health to the fact that she’s a lifelong Democrat.”
Mitchell said jobs will be his top priority and decried Idaho’s fall to 50th on such measures as average wage and per-capita income. “Someone has not been minding the store, and that someone is Jim Risch,” Mitchell declared. “He’s been much too busy taking junkets and going to the theater.”
Mitchell pledged to work with Idaho GOP Rep. Mike Simpson on his wilderness proposal for the Boulder-White Clouds mountains, which Risch has opposed. He said that like GOP Sen. Mike Crapo, he’d have co-sponsored the reauthorization of the two-decade-old Violence Against Women Act, which Risch voted against; the bill passed the Senate last February on a 78-22 vote.
Former state Sen. Mike Burkett, D-Boise, who introduced Mitchell, dramatically defeated Risch for a state Senate seat in 1988 when Risch was a long-serving Senate leader. It took Risch until 1995 to come back as an appointee, but he worked his way back up into leadership and served two terms as lieutenant governor and a seven-month stint as governor before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008.
“There are those who will say that Risch can’t be beat – he’s a Republican, it’s a red state, he’s got all the money, he’s an incumbent,” Burkett told a crowd of about 80 Mitchell supporters. “Folks said that back in 1988. It wasn’t true then, and it’s not true now.”
Mitchell has been an attorney for more than 30 years and is the former regional trial counsel for the Securities and Exchange Commission. He holds a law degree from the University of Idaho and is a graduate of Columbia University.
Risch, also an attorney, announced last April that he’ll run for re-election to a second term. His campaign issued a statement Tuesday saying Idahoans face a “clear choice” between his “conservative philosophies” and his Democratic challenger’s.