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Labrador still coy on run for governor

UPDATED: Sat., April 15, 2017, 9:44 p.m.

Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, arrives at Trump Tower, in New York, Monday, Dec. 12, 2016. (Richard Drew / AP)
Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, arrives at Trump Tower, in New York, Monday, Dec. 12, 2016. (Richard Drew / AP)

Now that the critical first 100 days of the new Trump administration are nearly at an end, Congressman Raul Labrador says he’ll be turning his thoughts to Idaho’s 2018 gubernatorial race.

There’s long been speculation that Labrador would make a bid to succeed three-term Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter. However, he never publicly indicated which way he might jump – even as one, then two and now three Republicans entered the race.

That silence led to further speculation that he’s waited too long to announce a decision, that he missed an opportunity to take control of the race from the start.

During a telephone interview Friday, Labrador dismissed that notion, noting that most voters aren’t yet even paying attention to the 2018 elections.

“The political insiders are thinking about it, but normal people aren’t,” he said. “They’re not paying attention to a race that takes place next year.”

Besides, Labrador noted, he was a late-comer during the 2010 election cycle, yet still went on to win his first term in Congress. He didn’t file until November 2009 in that race. He was quick to say, though, that he doesn’t plan to wait that long to make a decision on the gubernatorial race.

“That would be too late,” Labrador said.

Lt. Gov. Brad Little was the first Republican to announce his candidacy for the state’s top elected office. He was followed by former Idaho Sen. Russ Fulcher and more recently by Boise developer Tommy Ahlquist.

Labrador said he started seriously thinking about running for governor a year or so ago, but set the decision aside to focus on the 2016 election cycle.

“During the campaign, I worried about my own re-election race and about making sure we had a Republican president,” he said. “That was my entire focus last year. I campaigned for Trump and did all I could to make sure Republicans won Congress and the White House.”

Once Donald Trump won in November, Labrador said he felt he needed to give all his attention to the first 100 days of the administration, to help the newly elected president succeed – even if that meant blocking Trump’s effort to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a flawed alternative.

Despite the apparent chaos during the initial months of the Trump White House, Labrador said there have been several important successes, including confirming conservative judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court and repealing several burdensome regulations that were approved during the waning months of the Obama administration.

“There have been a couple of missteps, but I think they’ve been corrected,” Labrador said. “I think it bodes well for the future. He isn’t trying to do business as usual; he’s trying to change the way things are done in Washington.”

With the 100-day milestone looming, though, Labrador said he can now concentrate on his own political future.

“I need to make a final decision (about the governor’s race) and let people know,” he said. “I’ll be sitting down with my wife and family and making a decision.”

Family will be a primary consideration in that decision process, Labrador said. His children range in age from 14 to 24, and the two youngest are still in high school. From a political standpoint, he’s also thinking about where he can best serve the people of Idaho.

“I didn’t go to Washington to become a bureaucrat,” Labrador said. “I went there to make a difference, and I believe I did. Now the issue is, where can I make a bigger difference? Do I stay in Congress or come back to Idaho?”

Trump reaches the 100-day milestone on April 29. The House currently is out on recess until April 25, and will recess again May 5-16.

Labrador didn’t have a specific time frame for announcing his future plans, other than to say the decision will come “sooner rather than later.”

“Ultimately, it will be up to the people of Idaho to determine the direction of the state and of Congress,” he said. “And I trust the people to make the right decision.”


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