State Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, has pulled off an unlikely upset. Early Wednesday morning, Labrador was declared the winner in his contest against Vaughn Ward, a decorated war veteran, despite being outspent and out-campaigned during much of the contest. Ward had campaign for the past 14 months to win the nod; Labrador entered the race in December after another state legislator dropped out.
At publishing time, Labrador had received 48 percent of the vote to Ward's 39 percent. At that time, 91 percent of precincts had reported. Just after midnight, Labrador received a congratulatory phone call from Ward. Labrador then made his way up to the podium to give his acceptance speech. In his address, thanked Ward for his military service to the country and promised to heal the Idaho Republican Party after a divisive primary election. "I will seek to earn the energetic support of Ward backers," Labrador said.
He then promised to run a vigorous campaign against Democrat Walt Minnick, the man representing Idaho's 1st Congressional District. He had some kind words for Minnick, but said that the two men will engage in an active campaign until November. "I view Mr. Minnick as an honorable man who has worked hard for Idaho. We disagree on a host of issues. We have very different philosophies, but I am committed to having a vigorous debate and an honorable campaign," Labrador said.
The key to victory in November, according to Labrador, is linking Minnick to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, one of the people Labrador said is helping to lead America down the wrong path. "America’s in trouble. The unemployment rate in Idaho is painfully high ... Our liberties are threatened ... Washington, D.C. is out of control.” He told supporters gathered at the DoubleTree Inn in Garden City that he remains optimistic about the future of the country. “I am worried about this country, just like you are. But I will not despair," he said. "We must slash government, starting with the insanity of Obamacare.”
Labrador said he will work to model his campaign after former President Ronald Reagan. He praised Reagan for standing by his principles during tough times and never compromising his values. "Ronald Reagan gave America a hope for a new Republican Party," Labrador said.
Ward's campaign's demise likely came as a result of a series of gaffes and miscues that plagued him over the past few weeks. He was hit hard by two YouTube videos made by Labrador supporters, one of which showed Ward calling Puerto Rico a foreign country and the other showing a side-by-side comparison of the similarities between a speech given by Ward and then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2004. The Ward/Obama video has received more than 31,000 hits in 24 hours and the video about Puerto Rico has more than 10,000 views. The Ward/Obama video has been picked up by several national media outlets, including Politco, Salon, and Talking Points Memo. Comedian Jay Leno even played the video as part of his monologue Monday night.
Labrador moves on to face Minnick in November's general election. Minnick, who did not have a primary opponent, had just less than $1 million in cash on hand. Labrador had about $35,000. In a poll released weeks before the primary election results were released early Wednesday morning, 50 percent of respondents in the 1st Congressional District said they favored Minnick over the generic Republican candidate.
Here is Labrador's full acceptance speech: