BOISE – Idaho’s Republican attorney general candidates sparred over the validity of public health restrictions, the merits of lawsuits challenging the federal policies and other topics during a televised debate Tuesday night.
Incumbent Attorney General Lawrence Wasden is facing former U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador and attorney Art Macomber in the Republican primary on May 17. Wasden, who has served six terms making him the state’s longest-serving attorney general, defended his record and said the federal and state constitutions guide his legal decisions.
“I read the Constitution and do what it says,” Wasden said during the Idaho Public Television debate. “I have and will continue to uphold the Constitution, even when it’s not politically popular.”
Labrador, a trial lawyer who gave up his congressional seat to unsuccessfully run for governor against now-Gov. Brad Little in 2018, said he would leverage his political experience and fight “big government overreach.”
“This job is not just a legal job, it’s a political job,” Labrador said. “I would just be a lot more aggressive”
Labrador accused Wasden of being a “yes man” for the governor, criticizing the attorney general’s defense of the governor’s emergency powers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Idaho statute gives the governor the authority to declare emergencies, Wasden responded.
“You don’t get to add words, you don’t get to take words away,” he said.
Macomber, an attorney from Coeur d’Alene, touted his outsider status, saying Wasden has “cozy relationships” with the “political class.” Macomber called Labrador an “establishment candidate” who lacks the independence needed for the job.
Macomber said Wasden should have sued President Joe Biden’s administration when it paused new oil and gas leases.
But Wasden responded that Idaho has no oil wells and a limited number of gas wells.
“We file lawsuits against the federal government when we have a legitimate cause of action,” Wasden said, citing his decision to have Idaho join a lawsuit to block a federal vaccine mandate as an example of a legitimate cause of action.
Both Wasden and Macomber questioned Labrador’s motivation for running, suggesting he hopes to use the post as a stepping stone to the next gubernatorial race. Labrador, meanwhile, said Wasden had a poor working relationship with the state Legislature.
All three candidates appeared to enjoy themselves, with both Macomber and Labrador pronouncing it a “spirited debate” and Labrador calling it “fun.” Wasden had some of the debate’s most colorful pronouncements, dubbing some of his opponents’ allegations “hogwash” or “utter nonsense,” then citing specific Idaho statutes to refute them.
Debates between the candidates for superintendent of public instruction and secretary of state are scheduled for next week.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.