Though only two Republican candidates running for Congress were invited to Karcher Mall in Nampa Thursday night to discuss issues important to citizens in Idaho’s 1st Congressional District, three showed up for the crowd to listen to. Vaughn Ward and state Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, were joined by perennial candidate Harley Brown to debate and take questions from audience members. The forum was sponsored by the Republican Party in state district 13.
For candidates, discussion was fiery during the initial portion of debate, when the frontrunners in the race, Labrador and Ward, took jabs at each other’s weaknesses. Labrador tried to cast Ward as an unproven candidate with no legislative experience with ties to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who many Republicans believe is too moderate for their liking. “I didn’t serve as McCain’s campaign manager,” said Labrador. “McCain is the problem with the Republican Party.”
Ward, who managed McCain’s presidential campaign in Nevada in 2008, said that he preferred former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee during the Republican primaries. When Huckabee bowed out, Ward said he wanted to put a Republican in office more than a Democrat, so he enlisted with the McCain campaign. “He (McCain) wasn’t my guy, but he became our guy,” said Ward.
Ward painted Labrador as just another attorney voters could send to Washington, D.C. “What we don’t need is to send an immigration lawyer, who, that’s what he does, defend illegal aliens,” said Ward.
Each man also sought to paint a bright picture of himself for potential voters. Labrador touted his experience in the Idaho Legislature, where he has served two terms in the House. “I’m not just standing here today saying that I am going to go to Washington, D.C., and fight against taxes, fight against more government, and fight against more spending, I have actually done it in the Idaho House of Representatives,” he said. “You will know from day one that I keep my promises."
Ward, a Marine reservist who commanded troops in Iraq, told crowds that he is as much of an Idahoan as any man in the race. Ward has been criticized because he owns a home in Virginia and rents another residence in Eagle. He believes it’s a non-issue. “Even on the streets of Fallujah, I’ve always been home,” Ward said. “I’d never thought I would come home and someone would say ‘you’re not from Idaho. ‘” Ward was born and raised in the Magic Valley.
On the minds of Idaho citizens Thursday was illegal immigration, due to the recent passage of a controversial law in Arizona to crack down on illegal immigrants. The candidates were asked where the stood on the law, and if it is the right approach to address the immigration problem.
“The people of Arizona are completely frustrated with the federal government,” Labrador said. “The federal government, for over 25 years, has refused to enforce our immigration laws. I am an expert on immigration … and you want to send some back there (Congress) who understands immigration law, not somebody who is just going to read about it in the paper.”
“The federal government has got to do its friggin’ job,” said Brown. “That’s what the hell it is. That’s why the states are going nuts.” Brown said that states are caught in the middle of the illegal immigration debate because Congress has failed to secure the borders and properly protect the people.
“The issue we have is that the federal government does not have a comprehensive plan,” Ward said. “The states have no other recourse; they have to do it.” Ward said his solution for immigration is to enforce the law, secure the borders, and deny amnesty to illegal immigrants already in the country.
Discussion moved on to global warming and cap-and-trade legislation, which Democrats in Congress believe will help clean up the environment by putting limits on how much pollutants companies can produce.
“I do think man is responsible for global warming,” said Labrador. “It’s all that hot air coming out of Washington, D.C.” Labrador argued that warming trends are cyclical in nature and change every 30 or 40 years. He explained plans to address climate problems are, in reality, schemes to allow politicians to exert more control over the lives of every day citizens. “The Democrats and the liberals and some members of our own party … they want to control your life from cradle to the grave,” warned Labrador.
“The cap-and-trade, it’s garbage,” said Ward. He said that even though the people of the United States do not support global warming suppression measures, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has started addressing the problem through unconstitutional means. He said that if elected, he would work to rein in federal agencies which have overstepped their boundaries.
“EPA - excruciating pains in the assets,” joked Brown. Those who wrote the U.S. Constitution, argued Brown, never intended for the federal government to attempt to control the climate.
The three men and eight more, including those running for Congress in Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District, which covers the eastern portion of the state, will meet again Saturday night when Tea Party Boise Inc. holds its first-ever congressional forum at 6:00 p.m. at Eagle High School.
Here is video of each candidate giving his introductory remarks:
(Note: Candidates shared their post-debates thoughts with IdahoReporter.com. See what they had to say here.)