Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Idaho’s open congressional seat attracts crowd of candidates

In this April 23, 2018  photo Republican Boise businessman Tommy Ahlquist, from left, Lt. Gov. Brad Little and Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, participate in a debate at the studios of Idaho Public Television in Boise, Idaho. (Otto Kitsinger / Associated Press)
By Kimberlee Kruesi Associated Press

BOISE – Anything can happen in a crowded race to secure Idaho’s 1st Congressional District.

The seat has attracted a wide range of candidates, now that four-term GOP U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador is running for governor.

On the Republican side, this includes former gubernatorial candidate Russ Fulcher, former Attorney General and former Lt. Gov. David Leroy and state Reps. Luke Malek and Christy Perry. First time GOP candidates Michael Snyder, Alex Gallegos and Nicholas Henderson are also running.

It’s a competitive, crowded race marked by little differentiation between the Republican hopeful. All of them have said they support President Donald Trump’s agenda while also promising to cut taxes, stand up to Congress and cut back regulations to help promote economic growth.

Fulcher has raised more campaign funds compared to his opponents and secured big name endorsements from groups such as Club for Growth, which started running television ads for the Meridian Republican in the final weeks leading up to the May 15 primary.

Fulcher, 56, originally filed to run for Idaho’s open gubernatorial seat nearly a year ago with the hope of securing the top statewide seat after narrowly failing to do so in 2014 against Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter. Fulcher instead jumped into the congressional race, saying he and Labrador should serve in complimentary roles.

Fulcher since received criticism from his opponents that he only half-heartedly jumped into the congressional race because he knew he couldn’t win the coveted GOP governor’s nomination. He was teased because he used tape to cover the word “governor” on his congressional campaign signs.

For Leroy, the former politician hopes his past experience winning statewide elections will give him the extra push in the competitive race.

Leroy, 70, served as Idaho’s attorney general from 1979 to 1983, and lieutenant governor from 1983 to 1987. He was appointed by President H.W. Bush to be a U.S. nuclear waste negotiator from 1990 to 1993.

He narrowly lost to Democratic Gov. Cecil Andrus as the Republican nominee in 1986 and lost the GOP primary for the same congressional seat in 1994.

Malek is an attorney, former deputy Kootenai County prosecutor and three-term state representative from northern Idaho. During his time at the Idaho Legislature, he was vice chair of the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee and a member of the influential budget setting committee.

Malek, 36, received an endorsement from the Idaho Fraternal Order of Police following his opposition to legislation that would have allowed Idaho judges to vary from the current mandatory minimum sentences for drug possession.

Meanwhile, Perry – Malek’s legislative colleague and congressional opponent –was one of the key sponsors of the drug sentencing reform proposal. The two sparred during this year’s legislative session as the bill progressed through the statehouse, which ultimately failed to make it to the governor’s desk.

Perry, 49, is a gun store co-owner and describes herself as “the girl with all the guns,” urging voters to pick over her over her opponents because she argues Congress has enough white male attorneys.

Snyder, 48, has attempted to cast himself as the most pro-Trump candidate in a race where nearly every Republican candidate has attempted to out-Trump one another. Known as an end-times enthusiast to some, due to his multiple books on preparing for the pending doomsday, Snyder, also a former attorney, supports eliminating the Internal Revenue Service, the federal income tax, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Education.

Henderson and Gallegos are both military veterans who jumped into the congressional race late. Like Snyder, as first-time candidates, the two Republicans face an uphill battle developing the campaign support an infrastructure to secure the nomination. Both have campaigned on improving veteran services, with Gallegos pushing to control debt and improve combat readiness.

James Vandermaas is the only Democratic candidate who has filed to run for the seat. He will likely remain unopposed until November.