Larry Grant was the Democratic nominee for the 1st district U.S. House seat in 2006 and wanted to be again in 2008, but agreed to step aside in favor of Walt Minnick. On one hand, Minnick won; on the other, Grant could be (based on what he had to say in 2006) one of those Democrats less than pleased with him, who consider him a Republican House member in every way but officially. (Please note here: That’s speculation, albeit with some basis.)
A Rocky Barker (of the Idaho Statesman) blog item today brings Grant up to date. Yes, he said, he’s been getting requests from other Democrats to challenge Minnick in the primary. He’s been turning those down.
Then he told Barker, “I said I was going to run for Congress as a Republican.” He figures the conservatives among the Republicans will split deeply between candidates Vaughn Ward and Raul Labrador, and might split deeper yet if another gets in. Grant figures: “All I need is 35%.”
The party picture in Idaho could hardly get much more fuzzed at this point. The Democrats are likely to nominate for their standard bearer for governor, and their de facto state partisan leader, a man who has spent the last six years as Mr. Nonpartisan, the lets-work-with-everyone mediator, who has yet to express any interest in advocating for Democratic ideas as such. Adding that to Minnick, the top Democrat on the ballot next year, and Idaho Democrats seem to have quit the idea of forming anything like an actual opposition to the majority Republicans. If you want to do that, Grant seems to be suggesting, you need to run as a Republican.
The numbers don’t suggest that’s likely to work either. The strategy Grant is suggesting is the same one pursued in 2006 by an actual Republican (from somewhere around the moderate-conservative divide) named Sheila Sorensen; running against five avowed staunch conservatives, she theoretically only needed 21% to win. She came in third with 18.3%.
FOLLOWUP ON GRANT Grant may not be – probably isn’t – serious about actually running as a Republican. Congressional Quarter reports that “Grant laughed it off as ‘pretty much tongue-in-cheek.’ ‘I did say that to a person as a joke,’ Grant said, adding that his point is that ‘the moderate Republicans in this state have no place to go in their primary.'” Still doesn’t change the quite serious point he was making.
AND, ALSO What you just read may have come off as a little snarky about the Allred candidacy, and it isn’t entirely meant so. Allred and Common Interest have generated a good deal of praise, from a range of quarters (from his future opponent, Republican Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter among others), and this isn’t to take away from that or from his and its accomplishments.
But running for partisan office under a partisan banner means that you’re a partisan, and if you’re not, then you’re not doing the job, and that’s especially true of a candidate for governor, because that person is the party’s top spokesman. By running for governor, Allred is committing to being a spokesman for Idaho Democrats. But will he take on that role? Or will the party have no spokesman for itself as a partisan entity? Certainly the Republicans do.
Betsy Russell of the Spokane Spokesman-Review summarized Allred’s letter to the CI members “saying the Democratic Party had convinced him it would adopt his Common Interest approach rather than expect him to be partisan.” Does that mean Idaho Democrats have decided to quit being partisan – that is, to quit being a political party? Quit opposing Republicans?
From the letter: Democratic recruiter Betty Richardson “assured us that her expectation was that I would campaign and govern just as I had led The Common Interest. She said that it was that work that attracted the party to me as a candidate and that they didn’t want me to change that. Rather, she said, the party wanted to embrace that approach. Honestly, this was a surprise to me. When Dan Popkey was doing his piece on us for the Idaho Statesman in 2006, he asked me if I had any interest in running for office. I told him that the core motivation that drives me is the independent-minded pursuit of putting practical solutions ahead special interest and partisan politics. I explained to Dan that I could see no way that either party would embrace such a candidacy and that I saw no realistic way to run as an independent. If there were a way to run and win with my approach, I said, I would certainly be interested.”
Evidently a number of Democratic leaders don’t see the conflict here. But you have to suspect that a goodly number of party members around the state, already irked by Minnick, will be raising questions about what their party is going to be expected to become next year, and whether as a consequence they want to participate in a non-partisan or partisan political organization.
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