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Divisions within divisions

Two candidates in a U.S. House race in the year 2010; the subject of illegal immigration comes up, one bashing the other as being in effect soft on illegal immigration. Then perhaps the most iconic figure in the nation on one side of the subject, Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a Republican, shows up to speak at a Republican event – at Coeur d’Alene, for the Kootenai County Republican Women. Seems uncomplicated.

And here’s where it gets sticky. The basher in question was a Democrat, incumbent Walt Minnick, and the recipient of the bash, Raul Labrador, an attorney whose practice consists in considerable part of handling immigration and naturalization cases, and could be considered a moderate on the issue, is his Republican opponent.

What’s a good Republican gonna do?

The Labrador/immigration issue cranked up during the Republican primary this year, when the once-frontrunner Vaughn Ward mentioned Labrador’s law practice and seemed to question just how much he really wanted to tighten up the borders. Minnick’s slam-pow video took this another step or two further.

That last line especially – “Illegal immigration may be good for Raul Labrador, but that makes him wrong for Idaho” – can hardly be read other than as an appeal to bigotry. (And led to plenty of national attention, not least the headline on the Daily Kos blog, “Walt Minnick (D), bigoted ass.”

Minnick got partly off the hook when Labrador responded with what was in effect a defense of his profession, noting that he once worked at the same law firm Minnick hired when he was working on adopting one of his children, who came from China: “The level of hypocrisy he has stooped to is callous in the extreme.” It was a fair and logical rebuttal on the substance, but by mentioning his opponent’s family he generated some sympathy for Minnick.

And Labrador probably wounded himself with another campaign event – a fundraiser in Puerto Rico – on Thursday. PR is where Labrador was born and spent some childhood years, and (maybe some Idaoans’ surprise) it is American territory, but news of it isn’t likely to help his campaign.

And on Monday, Arpaio, the human flashpoint on immigration issues, comes to Coeur d’Alene.

At the Spokesman-Review‘s Huckleberries site, Dave Oliveria reports that “Labrador didn’t help matters by going directly to Arpaio’s PR machine in an attempt to get face time for a possible endorsement with Arpaio during his Lake City visit. As is, he will be allowed to join other political candidates for an event to mingle with Arpaio. Not meet privately.”

This is messy and will get messier.

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