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#10 from 10: Minnick ousted in Idaho

Idahoans had not in 2008 elected a new Democrat to a major office in a full decade when they chose Walt Minnick to oust Republican Bill Sali. (The last was Marilyn Howard in 1998, to superintendnt of public instruction.) He was under a microscope from day one, and he took unusual efforts to align himself with the rest of the state’s congressional delegation (all Republican) and to distance himself from many others in his party.

The Republican campaign to unseat him started almost immediately and became a stunning story all by itself. First a legislative insider enters, then is challenged by an unknown who turns out to have some good connections; the legislator drops out as the challenger picks up tremendous steam; another legislator enters the fray, though for months he seems a distant longshot; then the frontrunning challenger implodes, in historic, almost mind-blowing fashion. Meanwhile, Minnick organizes intensively and raises more money, by far, than anyone ever has for a U.S. House race – somewhere around five or six times as much as his Republican opponent.

And then there was the general election campaign, which was almost as hot.

Minnick was very well financed and well organized, but Republican Raul Labrador wound up trouncing him. It was a stunning loss that can’t be considered, in Idaho, entirely unexpected, but still demonstrated the difficulty Idaho Democrats continue to have. Might it have the effect of causing Democrats to fundamentally rethink how to become more competitive in Idaho?

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