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News >  Idaho

‘Independent’ Challenges Craig Minnick Running As Democrat With Conservative Rhetoric

Saying he’s an independent who’s more conservative than Larry Craig, Walt Minnick launched his campaign for the U.S. Senate Wednesday.

Minnick is running as a Democrat.

The Boise businessman said the agreement on federal nuclear waste shipments to Idaho that Gov. Phil Batt announced Tuesday prompted his decision to run. He was sharply critical of the agreement and said if Sen. Craig, R-Idaho, had been doing his job, the governor wouldn’t have had to negotiate the deal.

Craig endorsed the agreement Tuesday, along with the other three members of Idaho’s congressional delegation. Craig called the deal “a good agreement for the state,” and added, “It has teeth in it.”

That’s where Minnick disagrees. The agreement requires the federal government to pay Idaho fines of $60,000 per day - $20 million per year - if nuclear waste shipped here in the next 40 years isn’t all removed by 2035.

“It’s an agreement to make Idaho the nation’s permanent nuclear waste storage site for the paltry sum of $20 million a year, starting in the year 2035,” Minnick told reporters and supporters gathered at a Boise park. “Twenty million is a bargain for the federal government, to be able to keep the waste in Idaho indefinitely. Don’t think they didn’t think about that when they negotiated those amounts.”

Craig responded in a statement Wednesday that he believes Idaho is far better off with the agreement than without it. “It is pure politics as usual for anyone to suggest that this agreement is anything but an important first step toward a cleaner, safer and more prosperous Idaho.”

Minnick, 53, also called for a balanced federal budget, keeping public lands public and maintaining both Medicare and nursing home standards.

He said he favors balancing the federal budget not in 10 or seven years, but immediately. That would mean looking at the whole budget for cuts, including cutting defense and possibly raising the retirement age for Social Security, he said. That’s one reason he calls himself more conservative than Craig.

“I pledge to oppose all tax cuts for anyone until we can pay for them from a budget surplus,” Minnick said.

Craig has long made a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution one of his top issues, though he’s not been able to get the measure through Congress.

Once a supporter of Ross Perot, Minnick said he considered running as an independent, but decided against it. In a two-party system, he said, the only feasible way to challenge an incumbent is with the nomination of the other party. “If he (Craig) had been a Democrat, I’d have run as a Republican.”

Minnick said he was president of the Young Republicans Club in college. “I voted for every Republican on the ballot up until the radical right took over the Republican Party here in Idaho, and then I started splitting my ticket,” he said.

“I’ve tried pretty hard to vote for the person, not the party.”

Minnick is the former president and CEO of Trus Joist Corp., now called TJ International, a wood products company. He worked for the firm for 21 years. A former Nixon White House aide and a Walla Walla native, he holds graduate degrees in business and law from Harvard.

He is a member of the board of the Wilderness Society and of MacMillan Bloedel Limited, a forest products company. He has said that if elected, he would resign those positions to avoid conflicts of interest.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

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