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They said it…

Here are some quotes from tonight’s 1st CD debate:

Raul Labrador: “I think my conflict with the governor is the reason I should be the next congressman from Idaho. … You have too many people who are willing to … kowtow to the leadership in their party.”

Vaughn Ward: “It’s about honor of service, it’s about the things that I’ve done in my life. … My service to this nation, it has been honorable. … I will fight for this nation, and I will stand up to the scrutiny, and I think that’s what people do want, they want to know what’s your measure.”

Labrador: “His record is in the military, and I thank him for his service to the nation, but it’s not in politics. … I am willing to stand up even against my own party if I believe that my own party is not doing the things that are correct.”

Ward: “I’m not a politician, never claimed to be. In the 1970s almost 80 percent of Congress were veterans. Today it’s less than 22 percent.”

Labrador: (On his continued support for repeal of the 17th Amendment, which instituted direct election of U.S. senators) “It’s not something that I’m campaigning on … it’s not something that I’m going to go out there and draft a bill for. … I will not change, even if my position is unpopular, and I saw that it was unpopular. … You know what, I’m not here to please the editorial boards. … I’m here to please the people of Idaho, I’m here to please my conscience and that’s what I’m going to do as a congressman.”

Labrador: “I am an immigration lawyer, that’s what I do for a living, and my job is to walk people through the legal immigration system. … What I do mostly is I tell people how to become legal in the United States. … For the most part, I tell people to leave the United States, walk through the legal system. I though that’s what Vaughn Ward and his supporters wanted. … That’s exactly what I have done.”

Ward: “Illegal is illegal, and that’s how I interpret it. And there are those to keep them in this country, i want to fight to keep them out the country. That’s the consistent message that I have held throughout this race, and it is not defined by what I’ve done for my job.”

Labrador: “If you’re willing to say and do anything to get elected, you’re willing to say and do anything once you’re in Congress.”

Ward: (After Labrador responded to a jab from Ward about his having missed four days of this year’s legislative session by asking whether Ward’s wife, Kirsten, missed days of work at her job at Fannie Mae to campaign for her husband) “More excuses, but at the end of the day, it’s not about my wife.”

Labrador: “She’s the only one working.”

Ward: (after Labrador suggested Ward favored a border fence to “enrich your friends, enrich the people who are with federal contractors”) “Rhetoric’s getting kind of thick in here if you ask me; as far as that is, I really don’t know any fencing contractors at all.”

Labrador: “I don’t owe anybody anything, I don’t owe anybody anything in Washington D.C. or New York anything. I only owe the people of Idaho.”

Ward: “It’s about that Congress is broken, it’s about cutting the spending.”

A whole lot of lively debate…

There were some tense moments, a whole lot of lively debate, and even a few moments of agreement - very few - as 1st Congressional District GOP candidates Raul Labrador and Vaughn Ward faced off in a live debate tonight. Here’s a shot of the coin toss that preceded the debate; Ward, left, won the toss, which meant that Labrador, center, went first. At right is Bruce Reichert of Idaho Public Television. Check out Kevin Richert’s live blog of the debate here.

Ward, Labrador face off on live TV

Tonight the “Idaho Debates” turn to the 1st Congressional District Republican primary race, in which candidates Raul Labrador and Vaughn Ward are vying for a chance to take on Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick in November. The debate, sponsored by the Idaho Press Club and the Idaho League of Women Voters,  begins at 8 p.m. Mountain time, 7 p.m. Pacific, and will be broadcast live on Idaho Public Television, or you can watch online here. Co-sponsors of the debates include The Associated Press, Boise State Radio, Idaho Allied Dailies, Idaho State Broadcasters Association, The Idaho Statesman, KIVI-TV and KBOI-TV. I won’t be live-blogging the debate tonight, because I’m on the reporter panel. Tune in and check it out!

Rammell: Idahoans want Otter to debate challengers

GOP gubernatorial hopeful Rex Rammell today released his own Greg Smith poll results, in which 400 “somewhat or likely” voters statewide were asked if Gov. Butch Otter should debate his opponents prior to the May 25 primary election. Results showed 73 percent said yes, and 27 percent said no. Rammell said the poll also showed that if the GOP primary were held today, Otter would get the nod of 48 percent of the respondents, 24 percent would choose Rammell, and 28 percent were either uncommitted, refused or other. “The analysis of the numbers reveals overwhelming support that Butch Otter should debate his opponents,” Rammell declared.

Smith poll: 50% undecided on Ward, Labrador

Eagle, Idaho pollster Greg Smith says he’s done a poll in the 1st Congressional District GOP primary race that finds 50 percent of voters undecided, just weeks before the May 25 primary election. Smith said his poll of 400 voters in the 1st CD showed 34 percent support Vaughn Ward in the GOP primary, 16 percent favor Raul Labrador, and 50 percent were “undecided/don’t know/refused/other.” Smith said the same poll showed, for the general election, incumbent Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick as the favored candidate for 50 percent of respondents, with just 20 percent choosing “the Republican candidate” instead.

Smith said his poll was taken the week of May 3, and included 400 1st CD residents age 18 or older who “say they are either very or somewhat likely to vote in the May 2010 primary election;” his firm, Greg Smith & Associates, commissioned and funded the poll itself. You can click here to see the full results.

The big debate is tonight…

Tonight at 8 (7 Pacific time), GOP congressional candidates Raul Labrador and Vaughn Ward will face off in an hour-long debate held before a live audience, and broadcast live on Idaho Public Television. The public is invited; there are 130 seats available for the public in the Capitol Auditorium on a first-come, first-served basis, and the doors open at 7 p.m. and close 15 minutes before the live broadcast begins. No signs, shouts, applause or other disruptions are permitted during the debate. The “Idaho Debates” are co-sponsored by the Idaho Press Club and the Idaho League of Women Voters along with an array of media partners; you can watch the 1st Congressional District debate live tonight on IPTV, or view it online here.

Wasden endorses Ward

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has endorsed candidate Vaughn Ward in the GOP primary for the 1st Congressional District seat, in which Ward is vying with state Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, for a chance to challenge Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick. In a statement, Wasden called Ward “the right candidate for Idaho” and said, “He is a fiscal conservative who recognizes the need for limited government and that the purpose of government is to serve the needs of the people.” Click below to read the full announcement from the Ward campaign.

Candidate now says he never backed repeal of 17th Amendment

After a week and a half of heavy criticism on editorial pages around Idaho for the idea of repealing the 17th Amendment - direct election of U.S. senators - one of two GOP congressional candidates who backed the idea now says he never did. “I’m not changing the position, I’m clarifying, would be a better way to put that,” said Vaughn Ward, who is running in the hotly contested GOP primary for a chance to challenge 1st District Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick. “I do not want to take away the power of people to elect senators,” Ward said Monday. “What I do support is amending the Constitution and adding a two-term limit for U.S. senators.”

Both Ward and his GOP primary opponent, state Rep. Raul Labrador, spoke in favor of repealing the 17th Amendment on statewide television on April 30, on the “Idaho Reports” program on Idaho Public Television. Both also answered “yes” in a Tea Party Boise survey that asked if they’d vote to repeal the amendment. The move is backed by some conservatives as a way to promote states’ rights by returning selection of U.S. senators to state legislatures. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Ward decries ‘immigration lawyers’

Congressional candidate Vaughn held a press conference this morning on illegal immigration, and once again - though indirectly - criticized his opponent, Raul Labrador, for being an immigration attorney. “Experts in immigration law are fighting to keep the illegal aliens here, and since the federal government is not aggressive enough at our borders, the immigration lawyers and illegal aliens are too frequently winning the battle,” Ward declared. He had announced he’d be joined at his press conference by Canyon County Prosecutor John Bujak, who’s been outspoken on the issue and has decried the number of undocumented aliens who pass through the Canyon County Jail; Bujak, however, canceled as he was tied up with work in his office. Last week, Labrador held a press conference on immigration and accused Ward of unfairly targeting him for his occupation and his Puerto Rican heritage, while contending his knowledge of immigration law makes him the candidate who can deliver reform. Click below to read Ward’s full press release from today; the two candidates will face off in a live debate on Idaho Public Television tomorrow night at 8.

Simpson voting record lauded by conservative group

Though 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson is being challenged by two candidates in the GOP primary who maintain they’re more conservative than he is, Simpson was recognized by the American Conservative Union for his voting record in a ceremony last week. ACU Chairman David Keene said, “We know that ACU Members and the voters in this nation will look to these ratings as an indication of who stands on the side of liberty, prosperity and American greatness and who does not.” The organization ranked senators and House members on two dozen selected votes and lauded those whose votes matched its positions; the topics ranged from health care to financial regulation to abortion. Simpson received an 84 percent rating from the group for his 2009 votes; Rep. Walt Minnick received a 44 percent rating; Sen. Mike Crapo, 92 percent; and Sen. Jim Risch, 96 percent.

Closing comments: ‘Why I’m such an extremist’

Here are some quotes from the candidates in their closing comments in the “Idaho Debates” 2nd Congressional District debate tonight:

Chick Heileson: “I’ve been accused of being an extremist. … The Supreme Court is not the law of the land, they have to follow the Constitution just like everybody else. … The Constitution is the supreme law of the land, it is not up to interpretation, it is to be adhered to, that’s why I’m such an extremist for it.”
Incumbent Mike Simpson: Simpson thanked both his opponents for running for Congress, saying, “I think elections are important. We’ve discussed some real important issues.” He also listed other issues, from the national debt to foreign threats. “These are serious problems, and we need serious people to face these problems.”
Russ Mathews: “This election is about a vote of confidence, it’s about what is to be done and who is going to do it. I have a record of keeping all my campaign promises.” He added, “I’ve had some experience on Capitol Hill many years ago. I don’t consider myself to be an insider, but one who can hit the ground running.”

To watch the debate online, go to www.idahoptv.org.

Heileson in debate: Pull troops from Afghanistan

Among other points that have come up so far in the 2nd Congressional District debate tonight: Congressman Mike Simpson offered a spirited defense of earmarks, saying they’re transparent, they’re constitutional, and they’re the way a congressman who knows his district’s specific needs can make sure they get appropriately funded, while challenger state Rep. Russ Mathews called earmarks an inappropriate way that things get slipped into the federal budget. Challenger Chick Heileson said he thinks health care reform is unconstitutional and Simpson agreed. And Heileson said of Afghanistan, “We should get out of there and bring the troops home,” while Simpson and Mathews spoke of the 9/11 attacks and the mission for American troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Responded Heileson, “We weren’t attacked by Afghanistan, we were attacked by people who don’t like us, and there are people who don’t like us all over the world.”

Simpson: TARP was to avoid ‘economic Armageddon’

The Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, has been a point of contention between Congressman Mike Simpson and his two GOP challengers. Asked about it tonight during the “Idaho Debates,” Simpson said, “Both my opponents have criticized that vote as have many people.” But he said the country’s financial and credit system was on the brink of “economic Armageddon,” a situation that would have left “every business in this country … under severe financial stress,” with a credit crunch so severe that McDonald’s franchises across the country couldn’t have met their payroll. “This was not a bank bailout,” Simpson said. “It’s the financial system you’ve got to protect.” He added, “It is tied to the Constitution, it’s tied to the first Congress that employed these powers in 1791 when they incorporated and chartered the first national bank of the United States.” The Supreme Court reviewed the action and upheld it as constitutional, Simpson said. “They said … doing so is necessary and proper.”

Mathews responded, “I oppose the TARP and other bailouts. I’m not alone.” He read from a press release from U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo - who voted against the move, as did then-Rep. Bill Sali, while Simpson and then-Sen. Larry Craig voted in favor. Said Mathews, “Bailouts will only make a bankruptcy far worse.”

Heileson then took issue with Simpson’s citing of the 1791 U.S. Supreme Court decision, questioning whether “either the Supreme Court or Congress or anybody … can change the rules of the Constitution.” He said, “The Constitution says that it’s not in there and it’s left to the states, that’s plain and simple. … If it’s wrong, it’s wrong.” Simpson responded, “You know what? People disagree about the Constitution and what it says. … This was 1791, this was two years after the Constitution was ratified, so these were the people that actually wrote it. Ultimately someone has to decide what the Constitution says. Now Chick has his opinion, Russ has his opinion, I have my opinion, we probably agree 90 percent of the time, maybe more. But somebody has to have the authority on what the Constitution says - that’s the Supreme Court.”

Ask Mom who’s debating better?

Score one for the incumbent - in the first question in tonight’s congressional debate, 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson and his two challengers were given 30 seconds to say why they’re running. First, challenger Chick Heileson said he was urged by “my wife and associates and friends to run for Congress … so I looked at it,” and decided prospects were favorable. Then it was Simpson’s turn. Though he had only 30 seconds, he said, “First I want to say, today’s Mother’s Day, and I want to say ‘hi’ to my mother in Blackfoot, Idaho.” Then he launched into his reasons for seeking another term. State Rep. Russ Mathews, R-Idaho Falls, went next, and began, “I would also say ‘Happy Mother’s Day,” before saying he was running for a “bright future.” But Simpson had clearly cornered the Mother’s Day point.

Simpson, challengers debate tonight

2nd District Congressman Mike Simpson, who won 85 percent of the vote in the 2008 GOP primary and 71 percent support in that year’s November general election, is facing two challengers in the GOP primary this year, both of whom are taking political shots at the six-term congressman, former Idaho House speaker and former Blackfoot dentist. Simpson will debate the two - Chick Heileson of Iona, and state Rep. Russ Mathews of Idaho Falls - tonight on live TV; the public is invited to the debate, which will start at 7 p.m. in the Capitol Auditorium. Doors will open at 6 p.m. and close 15 minutes before the start of the live broadcast; noise, applause and demonstrations are prohibited during the debate. The debate will be broadcast statewide on Idaho Public Television; it’s co-sponsored by the Idaho Press Club, the Idaho League of Women Voters and an array of media co-sponsors.

AP reporter John Miller, in an article today on the race, reports these quotes from each of the challengers: Heileson, a member of the anti-communist John Birch Society, tells prospective voters when Simpson says he supports the U.S. Constitution, “I think he’s reading the Constitution of the Soviets.” And from Mathews: “Chick Heileson is a John Birch conservative. He even called himself an extremist. I’m a mainstream conservative, who has a record.”

The difference between north and south…

What’s the difference between North Idaho and southern Idaho? Well, there’s that whole water thing. This is Lake Coeur d’Alene this morning, amid country that’s so different from the arid south. And then there’s the wild GOP politics in Kootenai County, where the once heavily Democratic region is now heavily Republican, particularly in fast-growing areas like Hayden and Post Falls that are filling up with newcomers who never saw the old North Idaho Democratic politics. In these parts, there are the Republicans, the Reagan Republicans, the Pachyderm Clubs, the social conservatives, the libertarians, the constitutionalists and a whole lot more.

North Idaho’s hottest legislative race this spring features four Republicans vying for an open District 3 House seat; no Democrat’s even running. l have an overview of North Idaho’s contested legislative primary races this weekend in my Sunday column.

More debates coming…

More of the “Idaho Debates” are coming - this Sunday night, 2nd District Congressman Mike Simpson will debate primary challengers Chick Heileson and Russ Mathews, and on Tuesday, 1st District GOP rivals Raul Labrador and Vaughn Ward will face off.

Sunday night’s debate will start at 7 p.m.; doors open to the public an hour earlier in the Capitol Auditorium, and close 15 minutes before the live broadcast of the hour-long debate begins. Anyone can attend; signs, applause, shouts or any disruption are prohibited. Tuesday’s debate will begin at 8 p.m. Mountain time, 7 p.m. Pacific. For more info, click here.

IACI stands by its attack on Allred

The Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry is standing by its claims in a new website attacking Democratic gubernatorial candidate Keith Allred, though Allred calls them “flat wrong” and is demanding the site be corrected or taken down. In a press release, IACI President Alex LaBeau said, “AllRedInk.com will continue to tell the truth about Keith Allred’s agenda of more government, more debt and more taxes for our state because the people of Idaho deserve to hear the facts, not just Professor Allred’s talking points.”

IACI funded the anti-Allred website through the Idaho Prosperity Fund, formerly called the IACI Business PAC. According to financial disclosure forms filed with the Idaho Secretary of State, the fund took in $34,773 in contributions in calendar year 2009, all in contributions of $2,000 or more from large busineses. Its top givers, each giving $3,500, were Idaho Power, Wal-Mart Stores, Micron Technology, Potlatch Corp., the Idaho Association of Realtors, Monsanto Corp., J.R. Simplot Co. and Union Pacific Railroad.

Meanwhile, Allred released this YouTube video to rebut IACI’s charges, saying the Legislature and Gov. Butch Otter were wrong to assume that 2011’s state revenue would be no better than 2010’s, prompting an precedented cut in school funding. “2011 isn’t going to be as tough as 2010, not for the economy, but it will be a lot tougher on our kids,” said Allred, “who will go into overcrowded classrooms with fewer resources because Otter called it wrong.”

Former sheriff Sterk mulls run for sheriff

Former Spokane County Sheriff Mark Sterk may give his successor, Ozzie Knezovich, a run for his money. 

It’s a daunting prospect, Sterk acknowledges, because state Public Disclosure Commission records show Knezovich already has raised $38,778 and spent $17,959.

“That’s one of the things we will look at very carefully, as to whether we can win it or not,” Sterk said Wednesday after registering his potential candidacy with the state Public Disclosure Commission.

Also Wednesday, Knezovich announced he will kick off his re-election campaign with a $35-a-plate breakfast at the Red Lion River Inn today at 7:30 a.m.

Read the rest of John Craig’s story here.

The buzz about SupCourt race…

There’s more and more buzz about this year’s contested Idaho Supreme Court race in the wake of this week’s lively debate between incumbent Justice Roger Burdick and challenger Judge John Bradbury. Here’s a press release from former Idaho Supreme Court Justice Robert Huntley, who says he’s generally refrained from involvement in judicial elections, but since a sitting justice and a former justice have spoken out for Burdick over Bradbury and a state Bar poll that Huntley faults as “scientifically and statistically unsound” has ranked Burdick higher, “Having knowledge of Judge Bradbury’s qualifications, it is my duty to speak out. Having practiced before Judge Bradbury and having known him for a number of years, I respect him as one of Idaho’s most outstanding judges.”

Meanwhile, state Rep. Stephen Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, has sent out a statement lauding Burdick over Bradbury, and criticizing Bradbury’s statements in the debate about the state’s school facilities lawsuit. “Judge Bradbury’s argument seems to me to be an interventionist and activist interpretation (ie, get more money to the schools) of what should be the rule of law in Idaho and a clear violation of the separation of powers of our Idaho Constitution,” Hartgen wrote.

The May 25 vote on the Supreme Court race is the final vote in the nonpartisan race, though it takes place during the primary election; you can watch the debate online here.

Allred: ‘A dirty game of misinformation’

Check out this commentary from Kevin Richert, who calls IACI’s anti-Keith Allred attack website and robo-call campaign “sleazy even by robo-call standards.” Here’s what the robo-call says, an automated call that directs people to the new IACI anti-Allred website:

“This call is paid for by the Idaho Prosperity Fund.  IACI.org. Democrat Keith Allred wants to bring Washington’s reckless spending habits to Idaho. Visit AllredInk.com to learn how.  Keith claimed that Idahoans shouldn’t make tough spending choices this year. But now we know that would mean $82 million in new taxes for Idaho. Visit Allredink.com to see why Idaho can’t afford Keith Allred’s big spending agenda.”

Allred calls the claims “flat wrong,” “politics at its worst” and a “dirty game of misinformation.” Click below to read his full response.

IACI sets up anti-Allred attack website

The Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, a lobbying group that represents Idaho’s biggest businesses, has developed a special website attacking Democratic candidate for governor Keith Allred with criticisms that Allred contends are false, the Associated Press reports. The site, www.allredink.com, says that if the Idaho Legislature had listened to Allred when it set its fiscal year 2010 budget, the state would have been left with an $82 million deficit. Allred calls that “flat wrong” because he criticized only Idaho’s austere budget for fiscal year 2011 starting July 1, not the 2010 spending plan ending June 30, and he demanded the website be corrected or taken down. He contends economic indicators show the economy will improve in 2011. IACI head Alex LaBeau says if the website contains an error he’ll have it corrected, but said, “The information we have is what we double-checked.” Click below to read the full story from AP reporter John Miller.

Fiery debate for high court rivals

Here’s a link to my full story at spokesman.com on tonight’s Idaho Supreme Court debate, which was the first of the “Idaho Debates” to take place in front of a live audience, as well as being broadcast live statewide on Idaho Public Television. The debates are sponsored by the Idaho Press Club, the Idaho League of Women Voters and an array of media sponsors; the next debate is between 2nd Congressional District GOP candidates on Sunday night, followed by 1st District GOP candidates who are locked in a hot primary contest on May 11th.

Heated moments in judicial debate

Things got pretty heated during tonight’s Idaho Supreme Court debate. At one point, Justice Roger Burdick disputed Judge John Bradbury’s statement that the state school facilities lawsuit ended when lawyers were called to a basement meeting and told “it’s over,” without any written order or decision - and despite an earlier ruling that the state’s school funding system is unconstitutional. “It is abject malarkey and nonsense,” Burdick said, adding that the basement meeting was a scheduling conference on another, related case. “I’m not going to say it’s a lie, but it’s darn close to it,” Burdick said. “The Idaho state Legislature are the people who in fact fund the schools. The Supreme Court of Idaho cannot. It is up to the Legislature. The parties who brought this lawsuit in the first case could bring this lawsuit again tomorrow if they wish - this case is not over. We indicated we retained jurisdiction.” Bradbury responded, “If you want to know what happened in the basement of the Supreme Court, talk to the players who were there.”

Another clash came after Bradbury commented, “As to Justice Jones, I sometimes wonder who I’m running against.” Justice Jim Jones, who is running unopposed for re-election, has issued statements on behalf of the court challenging some of Bradbury’s claims about the state’s judicial system, and responded for Burdick to a letter he received from a citizen. Burdick said, “I’m not going to bridle anyone’s First Amendment rights to answer or to in some way respond to Judge Bradbury. … As concerns this letter, … I was up campaigning. … It was a legal inquiry. Little did I know that it was from a political operative of Judge Bradbury’s. … Little did I know that it was going to be used for some nefarious reason later on in this campaign.”

Justice candidates spar

Among issues on which the two Supreme Court candidates have sparred so far: The newly released Idaho State Bar poll and its high rankings for Burdick and low rankings for Bradbury; what happened in the school facilities lawsuit, which Bradbury dubbed “the darkest day in the history of the Supreme Court in Idaho” and Burdick defended, saying, “The court acted consistently with the Idaho state constitution as it has continued to do since I have been on it;” and whether reformer Bradbury could get along with his colleagues should he be elected to a court he’s twice sued and has strongly criticized. “After I was elected (district judge), you will not find a lawyer in my district that will tell you there is even a hint of animosity,” Bradbury declared, though he ran on a reform platform there. Burdick responded, “The bar survey certainly doesn’t indicate what he has said - I beat him in every category in his own district, and in every category in his district he went down since the 2008 survey.”

Audience in place, debate to start

There’s a pretty good crowd assembled for tonight’s Idaho Supreme Court candidates debate, the first of the “Idaho Debates” to take place before a live audience as well as being broadcast live statewide on Idaho Public Television. It’s being held in the new Capitol Auditorium. The debate is just beginning now.

Preparing for the debate…

Idaho Supreme Court Justice Roger Burdick, left, and Lewiston Judge John Bradbury, center, prepare for the coin toss before their live debate tonight on statewide television, as Idaho Public TV’s Bruce Reichert explains the rules. Burdick won the toss and chose to go second in the opening question and closing comments. The debate begins at 8 p.m. Mountain time, 7 p.m. Pacific. Bradbury is challenging incumbent Justice Burdick’s bid for another term on the court; Burdick, a former public defender, county prosecutor, magistrate judge, and district judge before his appointment to the court, has stood for election seven times and this is the first time he’s been opposed. Bradbury is making his second bid for the high court, after losing narrowly two years ago to Justice Joel Horton.

Labrador, Ward clash over immigration

Congressional candidate Raul Labrador called a press conference this morning to speak out on his views on illegal immigration - and accuse his GOP primary opponent, Vaughn Ward, of inappropriately impugning his work as an immigration attorney and his Puerto Rican heritage. “He is hoping, it seems, to appeal to the darkest recesses of the human soul by taking cheap advantage of my work in immigration law and maybe even my ethnic heritage,” Labrador said. Ryan O’Barto, Ward’s campaign spokesman, told the Associated Press Ward never raised Labrador’s Puerto Rican origins. “This is just an outlandish claim,” O’Barto said, before adding Labrador’s willingness to defend illegal aliens and others in federal courts remains a fair campaign issue. “Would he represent terrorists?” O’Barto asked. Click below to read the full story from AP reporter John Miller.

Allred sticks by his ‘irrational pessimism’ complaint

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Keith Allred has issued a statement on the latest April state tax revenue figures, sticking by his contention that Gov. Butch Otter was guilty of “irrational pessimism” in his approach to the state budget during this year’s legislative session. The preliminary figures show state tax revenues falling $55.5 million below projections for April, the biggest revenue month of the fiscal year.

Allred says the figures show that 2009 was a “terrible year economically in Idaho,” based on income tax returns that reflect 2009, but also show that 2010 and 2011 will be better, based on an uptick in sales tax revenues in the first part of 2010. “They were wrong to build next year’s budget based on the assumption that it will be as bad economically as this year,” Allred says of the governor and this year’s Legislature. “Unfortunately, it’s Idaho’s school kids who will bear the brunt of this mistake. Because of Otter’s irrational pessimism, we cut funding for educating our kids for the first time in Idaho history. This first-ever cut to Idaho public education is the biggest mistake state government has made in decades.” Click below to read Allred’s full statement.

Bar survey rankings out as Supreme Court candidates debate live tonight

The new member survey from the Idaho State Bar ranking the candidates in the contested race for the Idaho Supreme Court is out today, and it gives incumbent Justice Roger Burdick considerably higher rankings than his challenger, Judge John Bradbury. However, nearly half the respondents said they did not know Bradbury well enough to rank him, twice as many as said they weren’t familiar with Burdick. The candidates were ranked on such measures as knowledge and understanding of the law and judicial temperament and demeanor; you can see the full results here.

Tonight is the night that Burdick and Bradbury will face off in a debate to be broadcast live statewide on Idaho Public Television; members of the public can attend the debate, with 130 seats available in the Capitol Auditorium, located in the new underground west wing of the state Capitol, on a first-come, first-served basis. The doors will open tonight at 7 p.m. for the 8 p.m. (Mountain time) debate; audience members are asked to silence cell phones and refrain from any applause, shouts or other outbursts; signs or protests also are prohibited during the half-hour debate, which is sponsored by the Idaho Press Club, the League of Women Voters, and an array of media partners. Tonight’s Supreme Court debate is the first of this year’s “Idaho Debates,” which will feature the candidates in contested races this spring and in next fall’s general election.