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News >  Idaho

Idaho Senate debate lively

Candidates clash over stimulus; one falls ill

Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer

BOISE – The two major-party candidates for Larry Craig’s Senate seat split on the idea of a second economic stimulus package in a debate Tuesday night.

“Pretty soon you’re going to start talking about real money here,” said Idaho Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, a Republican, who noted that such a package would follow a multibillion-dollar financial bailout and another multimillion-dollar stimulus package earlier this year. Risch said he’s “skeptical” of the idea.

Democrat Larry LaRocco, a former Idaho 1st District congressman, said that such a package would have to benefit workers.

“Working families in this state are hurting,” he said. “This can’t be something that is just for Wall Street.”

LaRocco said he opposed the first economic stimulus package, “because I don’t like just giving checks to people; a lot of that money did not go into stimulating the economy.” But he favors investments in infrastructure: “I think we should be doing some nation-building right here in the United States.”

The exchange came during a debate sponsored by KTVB-TV in Boise and several other media organizations that was broadcast from Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa.

Independents Rex Rammell and “Pro-Life,” formerly known as Marvin Richardson, also participated in the debate, which included some sharp words and repeated clashes between Rammell and Risch, and Risch and LaRocco.

Rammell said Risch’s order to shoot his escaped farm elk destroyed his faith in government.

After Rammell left the stage briefly because of illness, Risch and Larocco got into a heated exchange over LaRocco’s allegation that Risch reaped tens of thousands in benefits from the property tax reduction he pushed through as governor. Risch called the allegation a lie and “absolute nonsense.”

Asked to comment, Pro-Life said, “Let’s all have a little prayer here in your heart that Rex can get out here and be all right.”

A few minutes later, as the candidates discussed energy, Rammell returned. “My apologies to the audience,” he said. “I have been campaigning quite hard and I put myself in the hospital a couple weeks ago, and I haven’t completely recovered. Speaking of energy, I could use a little extra tonight.”

Both Risch and Larocco came out in favor of the Idaho wilderness bills proposed by Sen. Mike Crapo and Rep. Mike Simpson for the Owyhee Canyonlands and Boulder-White Cloud mountains, respectively. Rammell opposed both, saying he sides with Rep. Bill Sali on that and other issues.

Risch said his seven-month term as governor proved he can bring about change. “This country needs an overhaul. I’ve done change before,” he said.

LaRocco said he’d bring “true balance” to the congressional delegation. He also assailed Risch for skipping the traditional League of Women Voters-Idaho Press Club debate scheduled for Thursday.

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