2010 Idaho 1st District U.S. House Race: Republican Raul Labrador Takes on Incumbent Democrat Walt Minnick

Sylvia Cochran
Yahoo! Contributor NetworkSeptember 24, 2010
Idaho's 1st Congressional District

Capitalizing on anti-incumbent sentiment in the 2010 election year, Republican Raul Labrador hopes to unseat incumbent Democrat and freshman U.S. House member Walt Minnick in Idaho's 1st District. Yet anti-incumbent sentiment or not, Minnick is a tough opponent to beat and the poll numbers show that Labrador has an uphill battle ahead.

Candidates for Idaho's 1st Congressional District (two-year term)
(Idaho's 1st District spans portions of the state's northern and western areas. Included within its boundaries are parts of Boise and Coeur d'Alene.)

Candidate: Walt Minnick

Party: Democrat

Political experience: Minnick won his House seat in November 2008. GovTrack identifies him as a moderate Democrat who sits on the House Committee on Agriculture as well as the Committee on Financial Services. Minnick sponsored a total of 13 bills, only one of which was enacted. He has co-sponsored 207 bills. Examples of his recently sponsored legislation include H.R. 4073/Rural Veterans Reimbursement Act and H.R. 4921/Budget Enforcement Legislative Tool Act of 2010.

Minnick's political career goes back farther than his recent tenure as Democratic freshman member of Congress. The Washington Post recounts his position as one of President Nixon's White House staff member. It is noteworthy that Minnick voluntarily resigned from his position (and being only the second staffer to do so) in the wake of the now infamous Saturday Night Massacre of Watergate.

Professional experience: Minnick served in the United States Army during the war in Vietnam. Putting his head for business to good work, he became CEO of TJ International; later he co-founded and acted as CEO of SummerWinds Garden Centers. Idaho State University recognized his business leadership in 1991 by naming him its "Idaho Businessman of the Year."

Key issues: Minnick's recent votes favor measures that offer state aid for Medicaid and teacher employment and offshore drilling regulations. But he opposes a tax law amendment that would repeal reporting requirements and the unemployment benefits extension.

Endorsements: Planned Parenthood endorses Minnick. He also received praise from the National Taxpayers Union and further endorsements from the Idaho Medical Political Action Committee and the Idaho Association of REALTORS.

Chances of maintaining his seat: Minnick is the kind of Democrat that Republicans hate to run against. Moderate, firmly entrenched in the business politics of the state, bipartisan and willing to spurn the party line if it goes against the best interest of his home state, Minnick is the type of incumbent that Labrador will have a hard time pinning down. He is also popular with Libertarian and independent voters. Case in point is the endorsement by the Tea Party Express, which generally favors conservative or Republican candidates. It matters little that Minnick rejected the endorsement.

Candidate: Raul Labrador

Party: Republican

Political experience: Raul Labrador represents District 14B in the Idaho state house. He used to chair the Republican district and is currently a member of the Judiciary, Rules and Administration, State Affairs and Transportation and Defense committees. In addition to these legislative committees, Labrador is also involved with the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs and the Republican Conference Task Force on Hispanic Affairs.

Professional experience: Labrador is an attorney who operates as owner and managing partner of his own law firm. The firm has offices in Nampa and Boise.

Key issues: In an effort to differentiate himself from Minnick and the latter's decidedly moderate stands, Labrador is taking a hard-line conservative stance on economic development, abortion, taxation, government spending and border enforcement.

Endorsements: Labrador received endorsements from Catholic Families for Life, Idaho Chooses Life and the Republication National Coalition for Life PAC. Other support comes from the National Rifle Association and the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry.

Chances of unseating Walt Minnick: Although his position as incumbent renders Minnick somewhat vulnerable, it is questionable whether Idahoans are ready to give a moderate the boot in favor of installing a conservative. Granted, the state is traditionally Republican, yet it is Minnick who has actually voted in keeping with the fiscally conservative agenda that generally makes up the campaign slogans of the right. It is therefore dubious that voters will expel the politician they know for the challenger they knows primarily on paper.

Key Differences between Walt Minnick and Raul Labrador

Second Amendment: Both candidates stand firm in their support of the Second Amendment and right to bear arms. Minnick says he sees gun ownership as an individual right that must be "free from law or statute designed to diminish that right in any way." Yet it was Labrador who actually passed the legislative test of backing House Bill 631 in spite of hostile inquiry from a variety of state representatives.

Environment: Labrador does not support environmental regulations that are designated to reduce effects of climate change. Minnick's voting record is a bit of a mixed bag. On the Issues reports that he voted to increase funding for the Cash for Clunkers program by $2 billion but declined to protect free-roaming horses and burros.

Immigration: Labrador opposes a pathway to citizenship that makes illegal immigrants essentially legal U.S. citizens. That being said, it is noteworthy that his law firm does take on immigration cases. When Minnick initially ran for office in 2008, Renew America pointed out he compared a border fence "to the Berlin Wall" and that he did favor amnesty and a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally.

Idaho's 1st U.S. Congressional District

Location: The Idaho 1st District is a combination of western and northern locales.

2008 results: Minnick won his Congressional seat by the narrowest of margins, beating Republican Bill Sali in November 2008 with 50.6 percent of the vote.

Demographics: Proximity One identifies the 1st district as having a 2008 population of 811,711 residents of which 92.87 percent identify as white, 9.57 percent -identify as Latino or Hispanic and 0.65 percent are black. About 12.60 percent of residents live at the poverty level.

The Cook Partisan Index gives the Idaho 1st District a rating of R+18, which traditionally signals a very strong advantage for Republican candidates -- except in this case. Politico identifies a strong 52 percent to 29 percent lead in favor of Walt Minnick.