Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Idaho race gears up as Republicans vie to take on Minnick

BOISE - A GOP state lawmaker who’s running for Congress now has Idaho’s speaker of the House as his campaign chairman. Rep. Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, says he’s gearing up his run for the 1st Congressional District seat, though as of June 30 he reported not yet raising a penny for the campaign. “It takes time to get that stuff set up. It took several weeks, actually,” said Roberts, who announced his candidacy at a Canyon County GOP event on June 12. House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, will chair Roberts’ campaign. Roberts is part of Denney’s GOP leadership team in the House, serving as majority caucus chairman. “He has known me ever since I’ve been in the Legislature,” Roberts said. “He’s the person that can talk about Ken Roberts and what he stands for and what he believes and how he practices in his business at home, that’s one thing. He can tell people about who I am. He also brings a real high level of credibility within his own legislative district and within the state.” Said Denney, a farmer, “Certainly we have similar backgrounds, and I certainly believe that he’d be good. … He’s the kind of fella that we need going to Washington.” Vaughn Ward, an Iraq war veteran who’s also running in the 1st District GOP primary, has his own big Republican names on board. In April, he announced his endorsement by Sen. John McCain. Ward was a state chairman for the McCain-Palin presidential campaign in Nevada. Later this month, Ward has Sarah Palin’s father and father-in-law scheduled to stump for his campaign in Idaho. Ward has raised $125,276 through June 30 and has been actively campaigning for several months. The two, plus retired physician Allan Salzberg, are vying for a chance to take on Democratic Idaho Rep. Walt Minnick. Though Minnick hasn’t yet announced re-election plans, he’d rolled up $598,616 in campaign contributions through June 30 for the 2010 election, including donations from some prominent Idaho Republicans. Roberts, 46, said he’s started fundraising. “We have really been aggressive in raising money really the last four or five days,” he said, though he wouldn’t say how much he’s generated. “We had very good contacts and a lot of commitments of a lot of money.” Roberts is a farmer who until recently also operated an excavation and construction business in Valley County, building sewer and water lines and digging house foundations. “The work along those lines virtually stopped,” he said. “So we had to shut that business down to a point, and we sold a couple of pieces of equipment, and we feel the effect of the economic recession just as real and hard as a lot of people are. It’s not a fun experience to go through, but it’s reality.” His wife works part-time as a waitress. Both Ward and Roberts have been trying to stake out conservative ground in their campaigns. “I think this is a time where it’s an opportunity for people of a conservative mindset to be elected throughout the country,” Roberts said. But Minnick, the incumbent Democrat, has attracted conservative notice of his own. The Club for Growth, a conservative anti-tax group that bankrolled the initial congressional campaign of former GOP Idaho Rep. Bill Sali, this week praised Minnick for achieving a 100 percent rating on its latest scorecard, the “RePork Card,” for voting to strip earmarks out of the major congressional spending bills this year. Minnick was the only Democrat to get a perfect score from the group, as did 21 Republicans. He defeated Sali in 2008 to become the first Democrat to hold the 1st District congressional seat since 1994.