BOISE – Larry Grant has withdrawn from Idaho’s 1st District congressional race and endorsed fellow Democrat Walt Minnick.
“There isn’t 10 cents worth of difference between my view of the world and Walt Minnick’s,” Grant said at an announcement in Boise Thursday, where he was joined by Minnick and former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus.
“That’s why we need to be working together to beat Bill Sali, not spending valuable time and resources in a contentious primary. For that reason, I am withdrawing from the race this morning.”
Grant lost narrowly to Sali two years ago, when the conservative Republican first won election to Congress.
Earlier, Democratic candidate Rand Lewis, of Worley, withdrew from what was then a three-way Democratic primary race for the seat, and endorsed Grant.
Grant is an attorney and retired Micron Technology executive.
Minnick is a former timber products CEO who unsuccessfully challenged GOP Sen. Larry Craig in 1996, but gave the longtime politician a scare in a hard-fought, aggressive campaign.
Minnick said he was “honored and humbled by Larry’s decision.”
“These are difficult times,” Minnick said. “Getting through them will take the kind of bridge-building and collaboration Larry Grant showed today.”
Though Grant has been in the race longer, Minnick, who announced his candidacy in the fall, immediately far outpaced both Grant and Lewis in fundraising. Among key endorsements Minnick lined up was that of Andrus, who two years ago endorsed Grant.
In the GOP primary, Sali faces a challenge from Iraq veteran Matt Salisbury, of Nampa.
Sali, in a statement Thursday, said, “Larry Grant ran a strong campaign in 2006. I wish him well as he moves forward. With Walt Minnick as the Democrat nominee, Idahoans are left with a very clear choice. Walt’s positions on issues seem to be in line with San Francisco’s Nancy Pelosi, but not with Idaho’s 1st District.”
Minnick was a Republican before he took on Craig, and once served as an aide in the Nixon White House.
He holds both an MBA and a law degree from Harvard and serves as CEO of a chain of garden centers.
Grant said it was “purely a strategic political decision” for him to drop out of the race.
“The object of this game is to take advantage of something that only happens every so often, which is a real opportunity to take a seat for a Democrat,” Grant said. “And we really needed to be working together. Looking at the next two months of what could turn out to be a contentious primary didn’t make any sense.”
Grant called Sali “one of the most ineffective and embarrassing congressmen we have ever had.”
Jim Weatherby, political scientist emeritus at Boise State University, said Grant’s exit saves Democrats from a potentially bruising contested primary. “It would have been a very divisive, personal campaign,” he said. “That’s just the nature of close campaigns where there are very few policy differences. Look at Obama and Clinton.”
Though a contested primary would have given the Democratic nominee more visibility, Weatherby said, it also would have resulted in “far more wounds and wasted resources.”
Grant said the move also should draw earlier financial support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to Idaho because there won’t be a contested primary.
The seat already has been targeted by the national Democratic Party as a potential Democratic pickup.
“Sali really is vulnerable,” said Grant, “and that’s the important thing – change politics in Idaho.”
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