BOISE – Idaho 1st District congressman Bill Sali has only been in office seven months, and he’s already attracted three election challengers – two Democrats and one Republican.
Sali, a Republican who narrowly won election last year after prevailing in a six-way GOP primary, said he welcomes the coming campaign and will be seeking re-election.
“We’re looking forward to the opportunity of having an open discussion about the issues facing our great state and our great country,” Sali said, “including the need to reform Congress, secure our borders, improve our transportation corridors, reduce the tax burden and reduce the size of government.”
Here are the three other candidates who’ve joined the race so far:
“Matt Salisbury, 34, a Republican, is an Iraq war veteran from Nampa and a former GOP precinct chairman and legislative district chairman.
“Larry Grant, 61, a Democrat, is a former Micron Technology vice president and general counsel from Fruitland who ran for the same seat two years ago and lost narrowly to Sali.
“Rand Lewis, 59, a Democrat, is a retired military officer and former director of the Martin Institute for Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution at the University of Idaho who now lives in Worley.
Salisbury was deployed to Iraq in 2005 with the Idaho Army National Guard’s 116th Brigade Combat Team. While he was gone, his third child, a daughter, was born.
“Definitely going to war does a lot of stuff to make you think,” Salisbury said. “I guess I’m in the race because Republican voters in the 1st Congressional District deserve a better choice than the incumbent and a Democrat, in my opinion.”
Salisbury said, “We’ve got to have somebody that’s a unifying force rather than a polarizing force.”
Grant said he hadn’t intended to announce so soon but had already met the Federal Election Commission fundraising threshold that required him to file.
Grant said of Sali: “He’s just ineffective. His vote isn’t worth anything in Washington, so consequently he can’t get anything done.”
Grant said as a Democrat he would have held more sway. “Had I been there, Nancy Pelosi would need my vote, so I would have been able to talk to her about some Idaho issues, like transportation … the Boulder-White Clouds or the Owyhee Initiative. She would listen to what I had to say about the issues that are important to Idaho, because every vote on these kinds of issues has been close.”
Lewis stepped into the last race in January 2006 but withdrew a week later, saying there wasn’t time to sufficiently campaign for the primary a few months later. He said he decided then to wait for the 2008 election.
This time, he announced early – back in May. “We know that it’s going to take a lot of work to displace an incumbent, and we wanted to get a good start on it,” Lewis said.
He said he’s been traveling the 1st District, which stretches from Boise to the Canadian border, for the past three months, talking to voters. “This is really a key race in 2008,” Lewis said. “I don’t like the potential legacy that’s being left for my grandchildren.”
Sali is an attorney from Kuna who served 16 years in the Idaho Legislature before heading to Congress. In the state Legislature, he made his mark as an ardent supporter and author of anti-abortion legislation.
Sali defeated five other Republicans in the hotly contested 2006 primary – including the sitting state controller, Keith Johnson, Canyon County anti-immigration activist Robert Vasquez and former state Sen. Sheila Sorensen – with 25.8 percent of the vote. He benefited from a large influx of out-of-state funds from the conservative Club for Growth but was endorsed by the state Republican Party’s mainstream in the general election.
The primary election is in May of 2008.
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