Vaughn Ward's former campaign manager, Ryan O'Barto, had a rough go of it last week. O'Barto, who resigned Friday, took heat from news outlets around Idaho for re-using a press release that announced an endorsement of Ward by the American Conservative Union that was first sent out in September of last year. That release was copied and sent out, with a new date stamp, on May 12. Though it was the first time the issue has been raised in the local media, it was not the first time O'Barto used the same press release twice to relay Ward's message.
On April 21, O'Barto sent a press release to the media about Ward's comments on potential immigration reforms in Congress. In that message, Ward offered his three-pronged solution to immigration - secure the border, enforce the laws, and deny amnesty. That message was sent out again on May 4, the same day his opponent, state Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, held a press conference telling his solutions for illegal immigration. The second, almost identical, Ward press release addressing immigration was issued a little more than one hour before Labrador held his press conference in the Idaho Capitol.
The two messages were not identical, however. In the April 21 version of the message, Ward says that he will vote against amnesty for illegal immigrants. "I will always stand tough on illegal immigration and vote no to amnesty once I am representing Idaho in Congress," the release said. In the May 4 version of the message, that sentence was bolstered and strengthened. "I will always stand tough on illegal immigration and I am the only candidate who will vote no to amnesty once I am representing Idaho in Congress," said the newer release. The word "the" is also removed from the first line of the second release. Labrador, during the press conference after the second release, said that he is also opposed to amnesty.
O'Barto resigned from the Ward campaign Friday, saying that he didn't want to be a distraction to his candidate's campaign efforts. Rumors earlier in the day circulated that Ward fired O'Barto, but Ward quashed those notions during a radio appearance on a Boise-based AM talk radio show late Friday afternoon. Ward told Nate Shelman, of AM 670 KBOI, that he accepted O'Barto's resignation reluctantly. He also confirmed that he is bringing in local media guru Mike Tracy to serve as his campaign spokesman and Al Henderson, who managed former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig's 1990 run for the U.S. Senate, to work as his new campaign manager. Henderson had been serving as the financial director for the Ward campaign.
Ward and Labrador are set to square off in a two debates this week; one on a Boise television network, and one in Post Falls, which is just west of Coeur d'Alene in north Idaho. The two men are vying for the Republican nod to take on Democratic incumbent Walt Minnick in November's election. The Republican primary election is May 25.