Former Idaho Rep. Bill Sali announced today he will not run in the Republican primary to regain his old seat, but instead will support state representative Raul Labrador in the primary.
Others who have filed in the Republican primary for Idaho’s First Congressional District include Harley D. Brown, Michael L. Chadwick, Allan M. Salzberg, and Vaughn Ward. The winner will face incumbent Democrat Rep. Walt Minnick.
At a press conference in the state capitol rotunda, Sali said he is supporting Labrador as the “right sort of person” to send to Washington, D.C., someone “with the backbone to make a tough vote.”
“The things I’ve seen him do helped me make a decision,” Sali said. He said he admires Labrador for independent thinking.
Labrador said it was “a surprise but an honor to have former representative Bill Sali’s support.”
“If the people of Idaho like what’s going on in D.C., there is a candidate for them,” said Labrador, referring to Minnick.
“Not only will I stand up against my enemies, I will stand up against my friends, when I think they are wrong.”
Asked about the relatively small margin by which Minnick defeated Sali in 2008 and how he’d use that information in his campaign, Labrador said that 63 percent of the District voted for McCain in 2008 and the district is heavily Republican.
“Minnick likes to tout his three or four conservative principles,” but isn’t a true conservative, Labrador said.
Sali added that Minnick spent $4.5 million defeating him, and “Obama mania” had also helped, along with public frustration with the then-Congress. “Walt Minnick and his friends will bring of lot of money to the plate.”
Sali was asked for his opinion of candidate Vaughn Ward, who has a well-organized campaign and who is probably Labrador’s strongest challenger. After praising Ward for his military service, Sali said, “But I have to tell you, sending Vaughn Ward to Washington, D.C. is a little bit like sending a Boy Scout to Iraq,” adding that Ward needs more experience and he wished Ward would run for state legislature.
UPDATE: In a statement issued in response to Sali’s remark, Ward’s spokesman Ryan O’Barto wrote, “No decision in Congress will be tougher than the decisions Vaughn made in combat. Vaughn is a proven combat leader who has spent his life in service to Idaho and our country. Bill Sali and Raul Labrador are politicians who represent a failed establishment that has given us higher unemployment, increased spending, and a record deficit. Vaughn will not stand idly by and watch our politicians in Washington continue to jeopardize the future of our children and grandchildren.”