Republican congressional candidate Raul Labrador promised delegates gathered at his party's state convention in Idaho Falls Saturday that he would run an honorable campaign in his race against Democrat Walt Minnick, but said that he will not let off Minnick off the hook for his votes in Congress that were contrary to the values of Idahoans. Labrador’s speech was crafted as a unity address, calling all Idaho Republicans to gather behind him.
Labrador said that Minnick, who took the seat from Republican Bill Sali in 2008, votes in the interest of Idahoans only when it is politically expedient for him to do so. "He has a knack for voting the right way for Idaho when his vote is not needed by Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership," Labrador said.
He slammed Minnick for his votes to reinstate the estate tax, also known as the death tax, as well as his support of abortion. He said that at his core, Minnick is a hard-line Democrat. "I will not allow him to deceive the people of Idaho about his record,” he said. “Mr. Minnick is a committed Democrat. We must remove Minnick from Congress."
One of the major points of Labrador’s campaign is Minnick's vote to support Nancy Pelosi for speaker of the U.S. House. Some reports suggest that Minnick might be willing to reconsider his support for the California congresswoman, but Labrador told delegates Minnick’s vote wouldn’t help Idaho Republicans. "My friends, don't you believe it for a minute. It does not matter who he votes for; you will still have a Democrat as speaker and you will still have Democrats heading committees in the House."
Labrador won a hard-fought primary race against Vaughn Ward, who bested Labrador in the money race but suffered a series of campaign mistakes. Labrador took a moment to address Ward supporters who might be hesitant to support him in November. "I also want to thank those who supported Vaughn Ward and other candidates in the primary. You should really be proud of your hard work and dedication to principled conservative leadership. I hope that I can earn your trust and your support," Labrador said. Ward, who planned to take time off from politics to spend time with his family following his primary defeat, is not in attendance at the convention.
Congressman Mike Simpson called on Republicans in the room and the state to focus on Labrador's race in the 1st District. "If Republicans work together, there is no way we cannot take back the 1st District," Simpson explained. He then went on to call on convention-goers to open up their pocketbooks for Labrador. "Raul’s going to have to raise a whole lot of money to win back this seat." Simpson handed Labrador a check for his campaign war chest on the convention stage.
Simpson pointed out the balance of power in the U.S. House may hinge on the 1st District race. “If we can’t win back Idaho’s congressional district, then we probably won’t take back Congress," Simpson said Idaho Republican Party chairman Norm Semanko said the party is firmly behind its candidate and called on Republicans to unite behind him. "We all need to do everything we can to help Raul," said Semanko.
Here is video of Labrador's speech: