Labrador pledges to be a defender of conservative values

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Oct. 13—He laughs about it today, but it was a distaste for office politics that permanently altered Raul Labrador's path in life 30 years ago.

At the time, Labrador was getting ready to graduate from Brigham Young University with a degree in Spanish literature and a minor in philosophy.

"I thought I was going to be a college professor," he said Tuesday during a meeting with Lewiston Tribune editors. "But I spoke with other professors and they discouraged me from going into teaching; they said it was too political. And that's the kind of politics I don't like — infighting over issues that aren't important."

Fast forward to today, and Labrador, 54, has a lengthy political resume. He also has a reputation as a fierce defender of conservative values, and as someone who is always willing to fight for what he believes.

After earning a law degree in 1995, Labrador spent several years in private practice before running for office in 2006. He served two terms in the Idaho House and four terms in Congress, representing the 1st Congressional District, before making an unsuccessful bid for governor two years ago.

He re-entered the political arena a year ago, when he announced he was running for Idaho attorney general. He defeated longtime incumbent Lawrence Wasden in the May Republican primary and will face Boise Democrat Tom Arkoosh in the November general election.

If elected, Labrador said he wants to improve the professionalism of the Attorney General's Office, both through better training and better hiring, and by improving relationships with the legislators who write the laws.

"The Attorney General's Office needs to have better lawyers," Labrador said. "That's really my No. 1 priority. We seem to lose a lot of cases in the state."

Having been a legislator himself, he believes he can improve upon Wasden's often tense relationships — particularly with House Republicans — and "get them to write laws in a way that can be defended in the courts."

He also wants to be "more aggressive" about pursuing legal issues that are important to the people of Idaho.

"We already have people from all over the United States and from within the state who are working for large firms, who are making really good money in private practice, who want to come work for me because they're excited about the opportunity to work in a strong, aggressive attorney general's office," Labrador said.

By "aggressive," he means an office that understands the current state of jurisprudence on issues like federal overreach, and that's willing to intercede in cases that affect Idaho sovereignty and Idaho citizens.

For example, he cited former Texas Solicitor General and current U.S. Senator Ted Cruz's efforts to work with the Texas Legislature on legislation advancing Second Amendment rights.

"(Cruz) looked at the legislation and said it was problematic the way it was drafted, that it would make it harder for him to defend it in court," Labrador said. "So he helped them redraft it in a way that would advance a theory he had that would make it to the U.S. Supreme Court."

Voters can expect him to take a similar approach as Idaho's attorney general, Labrador said.

"As long as it makes sense for the state of Idaho and for the issues that are important to the people of Idaho, absolutely," Labrador said.

That raises concerns, not only for Arkoosh, his opponent in the election, but for about 50 Republicans who have publicly offered their support for Arkoosh.

"Make no mistake, the rule of law, which has made this country the envy of the world, is under attack," said former Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa in a recent news release. "(Arkoosh's) opponent has bought into the discredited 'Big Lie' about the 2020 presidential election. In a recent debate, he said 'the election was stolen in plain sight.' That's dangerous talk. It directly attacks the heart of our system of government (and) has no place in the Idaho Attorney General's Office."

Other Republicans supporting Arkoosh include former Gov. Phil Batt, 11-term State Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, former 15-term State Sen. Denton Darrington and former First Lady Lori Otter.

"The attorney general should really be a nonpartisan state official," Otter said in a news release. "We don't hire our personal lawyer to give us political advice, but to make sure we operate lawfully and stay out of legal trouble. That's what Tom Arkoosh has pledged to do for the state of Idaho."

Labrador dismissed such comments as the grumblings of disaffected moderates who "don't like conservatives."

"I have 140,500 people who voted for me in the primary. He (Arkoosh) has a handful of has-beens who don't like the fact that their preferred candidate lost in the primary," Labrador said.

He also noted that Arkoosh, for all his talk about running the office in a nonpartisan fashion, isn't averse to putting his own political sensibilities before the Legislature's.

"My opponent already said he would sit down with the Department of Justice and negotiate with them," Labrador said. "He said he wouldn't defend the state against the lawsuit (the DOJ) brought on the abortion bill. If that's not a political statement, tell me what is. He's saying his political opinion is more important than the opinion of the Legislature, the duly elected representatives of the state."

It's been 30 years since the prospect of political infighting over issues that weren't important changed the course of Labrador's life. It's been nearly that long since Idaho voters elected a Democratic attorney general.

On Nov. 8, voters will decide if they want him to continue the fight for conservative values.

Spence may be contacted at or (208) 791-9168.