Posted on May 14, 2012
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador may have learned how to raise money, heading into Tuesday’s Republican primary with nearly six times the campaign cash he had two years ago when he was an underfunded underdog.
But the freshman congressman insists he hasn’t lost his independent streak.
“I’m still an outsider,” said Labrador, 44, who rode a wave of tea party support into office but declined to join the conservative movement’s congressional caucus.
A Puerto Rican born immigration attorney and former state lawmaker from Eagle, Labrador was heavily outspent in the 2010 primary when he beat Republican Vaughn Ward, and again when he ousted Democrat Walt Minnick in Idaho’s 1st Congressional District.
In the 2012 primary, however, Labrador has $200,000 in cash on hand while defending his seat against a truck driver from Moscow.
Reed McCandless, 50, didn’t file a campaign finance report and couldn’t be reached for comment by The Associated Press. In March, McCandless told the Moscow-Pullman Daily News that he was a “fed-up Republican” compelled to run by his disdain for the current political climate.
Labrador’s filing shows he’s collected $270,000 in individual contributions since 2011. He collected another $200,000 from political action committees, with top U.S. House Republicans Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor each kicking in $5,000, support Labrador attributes to his willingness to work with others.
“I know how to say no and I know how to fight for my principles. But my goal is always to get to yes,” Labrador said. “Some people go to Congress or the legislature to always say no … I always try to take a piece of legislation and say ‘I don’t agree with this specific piece of legislation, but I could get to yes if you changed X, Y and Z.’”
He cited the federal debt ceiling.
Last fall, Labrador was among House Republicans who withheld support for raising the nation’s borrowing limit until the bill featured a constitutional balanced budget amendment. The plan passed the House but was jettisoned in the Senate.
A bitterly fought compromise approved by both chambers in August prevented a U.S. default and cut $2.4 trillion in government spending. Labrador was the only member of Idaho’s congressional delegation to vote against that plan.
Labrador’s challenger in the GOP primary hasn’t publicly taken issue with his record in Congress.
“I’m not going to sit there and pat him on the back at this point,” McCandless told the Daily News. “I think he would like a challenge. I think he would enjoy that.”
In the Democratic primary, former NFL player Jimmy Farris was the only candidate to file a finance report. He’s raised $27,489 and had $7,169 in cash on hand as of April 25, according to his report.
Farris, 34, grew up in Lewiston and played at the University of Montana before landing in the NFL in 2001. His professional career spanned parts of seven seasons before wrapping up in 2007. He moved back to his home state last year before launching his congressional bid.
He’s been campaigning for about six months, meeting with Democrats and working to solidify the party. Some advised the political newcomer to start with a less ambitious goal and run for the state Legislature, said Idaho Democrat Party Chairman Larry Grant, who first met with Farris late last summer.
“It only took about 5 minutes to figure out that he had bigger ambitions,” said Grant, who recalls that upon meeting with Farris a second time, he asked: “When the last’s time a coach told you to hold back? He said ‘never.’”
In the primary, Farris faces Cynthia Clinkingbeard, who was charged with felony aggravated assault in March after police say she went to Staples to have some campaign flyers made and then threatened employees with a gun. A judge ordered a mental health evaluation for Clinkingbeard, who has a history of bipolar disorder.
Farris declined a proposed debate on Idaho Public Television, citing Clinkingbeard’s legal and mental health issues. As a Democrat running in one of the nation’s most Republican districts, Farris lamented not having the opportunity to boost his profile with voters.
“Jimmy’s concern is that he has been gone from the state for quite a while,” Grant said. “This is a difficult district, it’s 500 miles long, and it runs from Canada to Nevada. So you really have to get out there and hustle to meet the people that you need to meet.”
Also running for the U.S. House seat is Libertarian Rob Oates, of Caldwell, and an independent anti-abortion candidate whose legal name now is Pro-Life.