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News >  Idaho

Larry LaRocco won’t run for old seat

Chuck Oxley Associated Press

BOISE – Former Idaho Rep. Larry LaRocco said Monday he has decided against running for his old congressional seat.

The 58-year-old lobbyist, a Democrat, said the prospects of a long, expensive and politically combative campaign season were simply too much.

“As I looked at it, it just didn’t pass the smile test,” LaRocco said. “It was going to be too disruptive of my personal and professional life.”

Instead, he will continue to work for consulting firm Fleishman-Hillard Government Relations.

LaRocco initially won election to northern Idaho’s 1st Congressional District in 1990, ending 24 years of Republican control. But just four years later, LaRocco was trounced by Republican Helen Chenoweth, a conservative firebrand who served six years before choosing not to run in 2000.

That year, a wide field of Republican candidates turned out for the GOP primary election. Then-Lt. Gov. Butch Otter emerged as the front-runner, defeating seven other candidates. He went on to win the general election against Democrat Linda Pall, a Moscow City Councilwoman.

Otter will leave his congressional seat open in 2006 to run for the governor’s office. The move has brought out another large group of Republican hopefuls, whose politics cover a wide range of philosophies.

Boise State University political science Professor Jim Weatherby said LaRocco’s decision may be a disappointment to some Democrats, who could have benefited from LaRocco’s experience and knowledge of the district.

“He would have been a strong candidate, but this may still be an opportunity for the Democrats,” Weatherby said. The large number of Republicans vying for the race could produce a vulnerable candidate, he said.

So far, three Republicans have filed papers with the Federal Election Commission for the 1st District seat. At least three more have publicly mused about a campaign, including Canyon County Commissioner Robert Vasquez, whose red-hot rhetoric against illegal immigration has landed him on national television and radio news talk programs.

“In a field of six, in a low turnout primary with more activists and conservatives voting, I wouldn’t rule out any candidate from eking out a small plurality victory,” Weatherby said.

Republicans officially in the race include Norm Semanko, executive director of the Idaho Water Users Association; Sheila Sorensen, a former state senator from Boise; and Skip Brandt, a state senator from Kooskia.

Other possible Republican candidates include state Sen. Joe Stegner of Lewiston and state Controller Keith Johnson.

“From the GOP perspective, we have a great field of candidates,” said Garry Lough, executive director of the Idaho Republican Party. “The fact that Larry LaRocco is not running won’t change the direction the GOP is headed.”

Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Richard Stallings, himself a former congressman from eastern Idaho’s 2nd District, said he’d be happy to see the Republicans bloody each other in a nasty primary campaign season.

“The Democrats’ chances are the best they have been in a decade,” Stallings said. “There’s no question that they (the Republicans) have an edge in Idaho. But we work hard and sometimes we win.”

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