Several local and national news outlets, including the Idaho Press-Tribune and Politico.com, are reporting that Vaughn Ward is restructuring his campaign staff and has fired his campaign manager, Ryan O'Barto. The firing comes amid a myriad of missteps for the Ward campaign, including controversies over content on Ward's campaign site and O'Barto reusing a press release from September.
The news first broke through a Politico story Friday morning. The news agency said that Ward fired O'Barto, who served as a political operative under Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Penn., before coming to Idaho. Later Friday morning, the Idaho Press-Tribune confirmed O'Barto's firing, and said that the Ward campaign is looking to hire a local media consultant to replace O'Barto. The paper, based in Nampa, hinted that he is looking at using Mike Tracy, a Treasure Valley media guru and former aide to Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, to continue his campaign. The paper reported that Ward is planning an official announcement Saturday concerning the reordering of his campaign.
The number of mishaps for the Ward campaign has grown in the last few weeks as members of the media look to discover more about him, a man who served in the Marines, fighting in both Afghanistan and Iraq, but has not served in any publicly-elected position. Among the list of mistakes is the resending of a press release, originally sent out in September, with a new date stamp of March 12, a revelation the Ward did not vote in the 2008 presidential election even though he worked for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the Republican candidate for president that year, and a report that showed that several policy statements on Ward's campaign site were lifted, with minimal changes, from the sites of other congressmen.
The Ward campaign was also embarrassed by a report that showed that he flip-flopped on his position regarding the repeal of the 17th Amendment. Ward, at a Tea Party debate in Eagle on May 1, said that he supported repeal of the measure, which gives the electorate the right to choose U.S. senators, a power originally given to state legislatures. Only a few weeks later, Ward said that he does not support repeal of the amendment, but instead favors the eventual institution of term limits for congressmen, senators, and some government staffers.
IdahoReporter.com will provide coverage of Ward's press conference Saturday. Ward squares off with state Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, on May 25. Both men are vying for the Republican nod to face Walt Minnick, the Democratic congressman currently representing Idaho’s 1st Congressional District. Minnick does not have a primary challenger.
Update: Ward, speaking on a Boise radio station Friday afternoon, said O'Barto was not fired; read about it here.