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News >  Idaho

Risch, Mitchell clash in sole debate of Senate race

BOISE – Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, in the sole debate of his re-election campaign, ripped Democratic challenger Nels Mitchell as a clone of President Obama and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and suggested he’d actually represent California. Mitchell decried the “shrill partisanship” of today’s Washington, D.C., and said Risch exemplifies it. After the debate, which aired on a Boise TV station, Mitchell said ruefully, “I’m the one that grew up here in Idaho – not Mr. Risch.” Risch, 71, a successful trial attorney, longtime state senator and former Idaho lieutenant governor who served seven months as Idaho governor, is seeking a second six-year term in the U.S. Senate. Born in Wisconsin, he came to Idaho in the 1960s to attend the University of Idaho and built his political and legal career in the state, beginning as a county prosecutor. Mitchell, 60, is a Boise attorney who served as student body president at Boise High School and earned his law degree from the University of Idaho. Two years later, he moved to New York and then California to practice law and serve as a regional director for the Securities and Exchange Commission. He returned to Idaho in 2008 and joined a Boise law firm. “If you’re happy with the way President Obama is trying to take this country, this is your guy,” Risch said of his opponent. “I have every confidence he’ll be an enthusiastic assistant to the president over these next 837 days. The choice is clear – we are two very different people. And with that,” he said, “I’ll yield the floor to the gentleman from California.” Mitchell said, “I’m running for Senate to replace a career politician with someone who will demonstrate Idaho values of honesty, responsibility and hard work.” Mitchell has pledged if elected to serve just one six-year term, while Risch says he’d like to serve for “a long, long time” in the Senate. Mitchell was asked in the debate why he’d volunteer to start right out as a “lame duck.” “Six years is a long time,” he responded. “You can accomplish a lot,” he said, particularly if there’s no need to focus on fundraising or the next election. Risch said, “Everything in the U.S. Senate is based on seniority. I’m very fortunate to have gotten there when I did,” saying his seniority in the 100-member Senate already is nearing “the low 60s or actually into the 50s now.” Asked how to end the gridlock in Washington, D.C., Mitchell said, “The way we get beyond it is by electing different types of people to go back to Washington. … The seniority system in the Senate might be part of the problem, because we here in Idaho did not elect Mitch McConnell, nor did we elect Harry Reid.” Risch countered, “The gridlock in Washington, D.C. is caused by the two very different philosophies of the parties and the people who are elected to the United States Senate. They reflect a very different view of what America is and should be. … That is what has caused the gridlock today. … When you stand up and start talking about spending less in Washington, D.C., they look at you like you’ve got three heads.” When both candidates were asked biggest issue facing Idaho, Mitchell said jobs and the economy. Risch said the national debt and deficit spending. “This nonsense has got to stop,” he said. Mitchell responded, “Yes, it is something that we need to address, but by going back to Washington and just shrilly voting ‘no’ against everything, that’s not going to solve the problem.”
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