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Opinion >  Column

Eye on Boise: Crapo, Risch oppose immigration bill

BOISE – Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch both voted against the landmark immigration reform bill that passed the U.S. Senate last week.

“The triggers in this bill with regard to border security are not strong enough,” Crapo said.

Risch said immigration reform is needed but called the bipartisan reform bill “just a political Band-Aid” that he said “commits U.S. taxpayers to turn over their hard-earned money to someone who is not a citizen.”

The bill passed on a 68-32 vote and now heads to the House.

Shooting high

Idaho Falls attorney Bryan Smith is shooting high in his first run for public office: He’s running against 2nd District U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson in the 2014 Republican primary campaign. “Our country has gotten off on the wrong track,” Smith declared at an announcement in Boise on Thursday, the first of four stops throughout the Southern Idaho district. He decried federal debt, unemployment and “too many hard-working people struggling to live their American dream,” and said some of the wealthiest counties in the nation are around Washington, D.C., a place he dubbed “recession-proof.” “Washington, D.C., is living off our tax dollars,” Smith said. “Sadly, Congressman Simpson, while a nice guy, has become part of the problem after 30 long years in government.”

Smith’s platform includes no tax increases, “no more pork spending,” and “repeal Obamacare entirely,” and he describes himself as “pro-jobs, pro-life and pro-Second Amendment.” His campaign signs proclaim, “A Real Conservative for Congress.”

GOP activist Rod Beck, who attended Smith’s Boise announcement along with a dozen supporters, said, “He’s the first credible opponent to Mike Simpson since 1998. He’s raising money, he’s doing all the things that a credible candidate should be doing.”

Simpson, the former speaker of the Idaho House, is a dentist from Blackfoot who served 14 years in the state Legislature before being elected to Congress in 1998; he now chairs a key appropriations subcommittee, where on Thursday he pledged to turn the fiscal year 2014 environment appropriations bill into a battleground over President Barack Obama’s plans for new rules and regulations on greenhouse gas emissions.

Simpson was re-elected last year with 65.1 percent of the vote; in the GOP primary, he garnered 69.6 percent. Since defeating Democrat Richard Stallings in 1998 with 52.5 percent of the vote, Simpson has never fallen below 62 percent in the general election; in 2000, 2004 and 2008, he got more than 70 percent of the vote.

“I don’t take lightly challenging a sitting U.S. congressman for a Republican primary,” Smith said.

Smith is a Boise native, a Nampa High School graduate, and holds an English degree from Brigham Young University and a law degree from McGeorge School of Law. The son of a baker and a homemaker, he was the first in his family to go to college. He and his wife Sharon have five children and live in Idaho Falls.

“I am not a politician,” Smith said. “I am a true conservative who will fight for us.”

Not Norquist’s first visit

After Grover Norquist’s pro-immigration reform talk to the City Club of Boise last week, I asked him if he’d been to Idaho before. His answer: Many times. He recalled the first, back in 1978 when he was about 21 years old, when he came to help craft the state’s property tax-limiting One Percent Initiative, shortly after California had passed its controversial Proposition 13. “We basically whited out ‘California’ and typed in ‘Idaho,’ ” he said with a chuckle.

The initiative, which sought to limit property taxes to 1 percent of value, passed but proved incompatible with Idaho’s tax system. State lawmakers followed up by instead imposing a 3 percent cap on annual increases in local government property tax budgets that largely stands today.

Thorpe replaces Whitworth

After just a year in the post, Idaho Republican Party Executive Director Joshua Whitworth is moving on to take a job working for state Controller Brandon Woolf. Trevor Thorpe, who has served as the party’s political director for the past year and a half and was its state victory director for the 2010 elections, will be the new executive director starting in July.

Thorpe is a Virginia native and BYU graduate; before coming to work for the Idaho GOP in 2010, he interned at the U.S. Department of State.

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