Busting the Club

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
The Idaho
Column

Idaho voters may despise Congress, but they do not often throw out their own members – they’ve done it just four times in the last half-century. Less often than that do the voters of a party reject an incumbent of their own party for another term.

The last time it happened was almost 40 years ago, in 1974, when Orval Hansen, a three-term incumbent in the second district, was defeated in the primary by former Representative George Hansen. The campaign was messy and a number of factors, some of them personal to the candidates, were at play. But the ideological dynamic was one familiar to Idaho voters today: The challenge to Orval by George was seen as a challenge of the right against a more moderate conservative.

You wonder if the Club for Growth is doing a little research on that election.

The Club, which made a splash in Idaho in 2006, is described in Wikipedia as “a fiscally conservative 501(c)4 organization active in the United States of America, with an agenda focused on taxation and other economic issues. … According to its website, the Club for Growth’s policy goals include cutting income tax rates, repealing the estate tax, limited government and a Balanced Budget Amendment, entitlement reform, free trade, tort reform, school choice, and deregulation.” It does not much compromise on any of that.

In 2006, when Idaho had an open seat in the first district, it threw massive money and support to then-legislator Bill Sali, enough that you could fairly say it was the number one reason Sali won his primary and general election that year. One piece of evidence is that in 2008, when Sali ran as an incumbent, the Club stayed out of the race, and Sali lost.

Now the Club is signaling it wants in again, time targeting 2nd District Representative Mike Simpson, now an eight-term member and probably the member of the Idaho delegation with the most clout within Congress. He describes himself as a conservative, and certainly is a loyal member of the House Republican caucus, and close to House Speaker John Boehner.

The Club for Growth uses other metrics. On its site primarymycongressman.com, Simpson is listed first among nine Republican House members it would like to target for defeat. It’s short description of why: “Mike Simpson has repeatedly voted for an expansion of government-run health insurance, Democrat spending bills, and pork project after pork project. He voted for the $700 billion taxpayer bailout of Wall Street banks and he was one of only three Congressmen to vote against defunding A.C.O.R.N., the far-left group notorious for voter fraud.” (About a dozen specific votes are also listed.)

If the Club persists against Simpson, though, it’s likely to come to grief.

Simpson has not had a competitive election since he joined the House in 1998. In 2010 he faced three opponents in the primary, and got 58.3% against the two of them during the peak of Tea Party fervor – a strong showing under the circumstances. In 2012 one of those candidate, Chick Heileson, ran again, and Simpson this time won with 69.5% of the vote.

Keep watch to see if the Club maintains Simpson on its target list. If it does, that may say more about the Club than it does about Simpson.

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