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Idaho Rep. Labrador meets with Trump, hints he may be up for administration post

Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, arrives at Trump Tower, in New York, Monday, Dec. 12, 2016. (Richard Drew / AP)
Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, arrives at Trump Tower, in New York, Monday, Dec. 12, 2016. (Richard Drew / AP)

Tea party favorite Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho met with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York on Monday, and hinted afterward to reporters that they’d discussed a role for him in the new Trump administration.

“We talked about a lot of issues … about the West and how we could make sure that the Western issues are listened to,” Labrador said, calling it a “great, great meeting.”

According to press pool reports, Labrador was asked if the two talked about a job in the administration. “We talked about a lot of different things,” Labrador responded. “I want to be able to help this administration in any way I can. I’m excited for America that we’re going to have an opportunity to have a new administration that has hit the ground running, and I think there’s a lot of ways that I can help. If I can help in the administration or if I can help him in Congress, I’m very excited about it.”

Labrador actively campaigned for Trump in the final two weeks before the election, criss-crossing the country to speak at Trump rallies in Florida, Arizona and Utah. A co-founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, Labrador just won his fourth term in the House.

Trump transition spokesman Jason Miller told reporters during a briefing call Monday morning that Trump is interested in Labrador’s record as a “national leader on immigration and criminal justice reform” and his “great familiarity with interior issues.”

Labrador, like Trump, has made a name for himself by not hewing to party orthodoxy and being willing to challenge conventions and norms of government. He is contemptuous of politicians who see their job as “governing.”

In a statement issued Monday afternoon, Labrador said, “President-elect Trump and I had an excellent conversation this afternoon about issues critical to Idaho and the West. We discussed how we can work together to better manage our federal lands and unlock our country’s vast natural resources.”

But in the statement issued by his office, he said nothing about his possible future role.

“He and I agree that we need to listen to the people closest to the land and restore multiple-use for the benefit of all Americans,” Labrador said. “After our meeting, I remain confident that the president-elect shares our values and that his administration will be a friend to the people of Idaho.”

Trump has been holding a series of meetings with prospective appointees for his new presidential adminstration; he’s met with more than 90 so far. Others scheduled to meet with him Monday included former Hewlett-Packard executive and GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina; former Texas Gov. Rick Perry; Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Trump’s expected pick for secretary of the interior, Washington GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

Labrador has been publicly speculating about a possible run for governor of Idaho in 2018. That’s already prompted David Leroy, former Idaho lieutenant governor and former Idaho attorney general, to begin exploring a run for Labrador’s seat. Leroy confirmed last week that he’s interested. He ran for the same seat in 1994, finishing second in a four-way GOP primary to eventual winner Helen Chenoweth.

Leroy said he’d run in a special election if Labrador leaves the office. “Absolutely – if Congressman Labrador determines to make that an open seat, I will immediately explore the possibility of running,” he said Monday. “I have had many discussions with key leaders about the possibility of running and remain in that stage.”

If Labrador were to leave office to join the Trump Administration, others likely also would be interested in the seat. Idaho would have to hold a special election to fill the 1st District seat in Congress; it’s the seat that represents North Idaho.

Idaho’s never held a special election for the U.S. House before; it’s the only state that hasn’t. If it did, there would be no primary.

“It’s a single special election, so everybody who wants to run for it just runs,” said Deputy Idaho Attorney General Brian Kane. “It’s a good old-fashioned donnybrook.”

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