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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Vaughn Ward failed to vote in 2008 general election

McCain campaign kept him from polls, he says

Jessie L. Bonner Associated Press

BOISE – U.S. House hopeful Vaughn Ward worked on Sen. John McCain’s bid for the presidency two years ago, but he didn’t vote for him – or anyone else – in the 2008 general election.

Ward told the Associated Press on Thursday that his job as Nevada director for McCain’s presidential bid made it difficult to break away from the frenzied pace that defined the final days in a key battleground state.

“I was managing the entire operation, and it became apparent I was not going to be able to fly home to vote,” Ward said. “The important point is I was out there fighting for the campaign.”

Ward also said the window for requesting an absentee ballot had closed by the time he realized he wouldn’t be able to return as planned to cast his ballot in Idaho.

Ward registered to vote in the May 2008 primary with an Ada County address, a residence that belongs to his campaign treasurer Lowell Bengoechea, according to public records. Ward and his wife, Kristen, had lived with Bengoechea while they were shopping for a home in Eagle, he said.

The couple now rent a home about a mile from Bengoechea’s house. Ward also has a listed property in Cascade, Idaho, and a home in Virginia.

The U.S. Marine major is running in this month’s GOP primary against state Rep. Raul Labrador, an attorney who voted both in the 2008 primary and general election, according to Ada County election records.

“Mr. Ward’s use of a house that was not his residence as a registered place to vote is so clearly a part of a pattern of parachuting into a land that’s not his,” said Labrador spokesman Dennis Mansfield.

“He’s a homeowner in Virginia who slept on a couch in Idaho and didn’t even bother to vote.”

Ward has not endorsed McCain, who helped him launch his political career and now faces a strong primary challenge in Arizona from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth. McCain and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin have endorsed Ward.

During a live televised debate Tuesday, Ward pointed out that he and McCain differ on several issues, including global warming, immigration and not drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“I’m proud of the opportunity that I had to be a part of my party in our effort to try to gain control of the presidency,” Ward said, “but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m going to back anybody who was part of that effort.”

About 77 percent of Idaho’s then 863,538 registered voters cast ballots in the 2008 presidential race, and 61 percent of voters chose Republican McCain as the candidate best equipped to manage the economic turmoil nationwide, an issue that was listed as their chief concern in an Associated Press exit poll.

While Ward didn’t vote in the last general election, he emphasized that there are many ways to participate in the political process, such as working on a campaign or attending debates and volunteering.

“I want Idahoans to participate in the Idaho political process,” Ward said. “I’m committed to that.”