Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, has made it official: He’s running for the open 1st District congressional seat next year, the third big-name Republican to enter the race.
At just 35, the three-term state representative and attorney is considerably younger than his two top GOP rivals, former Idaho lieutenant governor and attorney general David Leroy, 70, and former Meridian state Sen. Russ Fulcher, 55.
“I have a vested interest in the future of Idaho, and that’s part of the reason I’m running, right?” Malek said Wednesday. “I want to contribute to the future of Idaho.”
Despite his youth, Malek’s done a lot: He’s a former Kootenai County deputy prosecutor, former North Idaho regional director for then-Gov. Jim Risch, and currently operates a law firm in Coeur d’Alene. He was also co-founder of the Kootenai County Young Professionals organization, among other posts.
In the Legislature, he’s the vice-chair of the House Judiciary Committee and serves on the joint budget committee, and has also been a key player in passing major legislation, from creating a computer science college degree program in North Idaho to legislation on health, transportation and public safety. He’s a graduate of Gonzaga Prep, the College of Idaho and the University of Idaho College of Law.
“There are not many 35-year-olds serving three terms in the Legislature,” said Jim Weatherby, Boise State University professor emeritus and a longtime observer of Idaho politics. “It’s a pretty long resume for a young man.”
If elected, Malek would also be the first North Idaho resident to represent Idaho’s 1st District since Clark Fork’s Compton White Jr., who served from 1963 to 1967. Idaho is split into just two congressional districts, with North Idaho joining a swath of southwestern Idaho in District 1, and eastern Idaho joining another chunk of southwestern Idaho in District 2. The last nine 1st District representatives, including current Rep. Raul Labrador, all have been from southwestern Idaho.
“I do think that the 1st District needs diverse representation, because it’s a diverse district,” Malek said. He noted that he grew up in Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls, but also lived in Caldwell and Moscow, and traveled all through North Idaho when he worked for Gov. Risch. “I think you need someone who truly understands the nuance between all the communities in the 1st District,” he said.
Labrador is running for governor, making his current congressional seat an open one next year. Already in the race are Leroy; Fulcher, who switched over from the governor’s race in June; and three lesser-known candidates, Democrats Michael William Smith of Post Falls and Donald Miller of Meridian, and Republican Michael Snyder of Bonners Ferry. Layne Bangerter, a longtime aide to GOP Sen. Mike Crapo and the director of the Trump presidential campaign in Idaho, also has said he’s considering the race.
“I think I would bring a level of commitment to solutions to Congress that would be needed, and that Idaho families could really use back there in Washington, D.C., right now,” Malek said.
Malek filed his official statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday, and launched his campaign with an announcement to supporters in Coeur d’Alene.
“This makes an interesting race even more interesting,” Weatherby said.
Idaho’s 2018 primary election is May 15, followed by the general election on Nov. 6.
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