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Eye on Boise: Labrador rips immigration shift

BOISE – U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, an immigration attorney who touted his expertise on the issue as he ran for Idaho’s 1st District congressional seat two years ago, blasted President Barack Obama’s announcement Friday of a major change in the nation’s enforcement of immigration law.

The president announced that young illegal immigrants will be able to avoid deportation if they can prove they were brought to the United States before they turned 16 and are younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED or served in the military. They also can apply for a work permit that will be good for two years with no limits on how many times it can be renewed.

“Our nation’s first commitment must be to follow the rule of law and this action by the president bypasses the existing legal process,” Labrador said in a statement. “President Obama had two years in the White House to move immigration legislation through a Democrat-controlled House and Senate and he failed to do so. There are many Republicans in Congress who have been working to fix our broken immigration process. Instead of joining them to produce legislation in a constitutional manner, the president acted unilaterally in a blatantly political manner.”

Democrats up candidate numbers

Idaho Democrats recruited more than 90 candidates to run for office this year, and there were nine contested Democratic primary contests across the state last month, Democratic Party Chairman Larry Grant told his party’s state convention Friday. Now, there are 82 Democratic candidates on the ballot for legislative seats.

“Some are placeholders,” Grant acknowledged. “You’ve got to have placeholders in these elections, because you never know when somebody is going to steal an RV and … crash it, or refuse to pay their taxes,” he said to laughter. But Grant said there are 60 Democratic legislative candidates “running honest, sincere and vigorous races across the state. … That’s more candidates than anybody can remember in the state of Idaho … since the ’60s.”

Boise State University political scientist Gary Moncrief said, “We’ve usually got about 40 to 50 seats that are uncontested, just doing the math; a lot of those that are contested are barely contested. So if in fact they’re running 60 serious races, I would think that’s higher than we’ve seen in some time.”

In 1990, when the Senate split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, there were more seats in the Legislature, at 126. Democrats only failed to compete in 30 of those races that year. In 1992, which was both a competitive time between the parties and, like this year, a redistricting year that typically draws more candidates, the Dems left 31 of 105 seats uncontested.

This year, according to records at the Idaho secretary of state’s office, Democrats were on the ballot for all but 28 of the seats in the Legislature in the primary, and five more Dems made the ballot as primary election write-ins, for a total of just 23 seats not contested by Democrats in November.

Dems’ confab features Farris

Idaho Democrats gathered for their state party convention this past week in Boise, while Idaho Republicans will gather for their state convention Thursday through Saturday in Twin Falls.

At the Democratic confab, 1st District congressional candidate Jimmy Farris was the leadoff speaker, drawing an enthusiastic response from a crowd of about 100. Farris, a former NFL football player and Lewiston native, was wearing his Super Bowl ring, and led off by thanking his “team” as he introduced his campaign staffers. Farris looks younger than his 34 years and has an unmistakably athletic bearing, particularly when he doffed his jacket and worked the crowd.

He decried “division and gridlock,” saying, “That’s what this campaign is all about. It’s about bringing people together, not dividing them. It’s about being part of a team, not a … one-man show.”

Among those in the audience was former state Sen. Mary Lou Reed, D-Coeur d’Alene, who called Farris “refreshingly strong” and “a very smart guy.”

Cuts hit home at UI

The Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee held its interim meeting in north-central Idaho last week, and the lawmakers, along with State Board of Education members, state Division of Financial Management officials and staffers, toured the University of Idaho’s research facilities and labs in Moscow and talked with professors and students.

UI President Duane Nellis said over the past four years the university has lost $30 million in state funding but has partnered with 250 private and public entities to keep research and academic programs going.

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