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Another Pfost?

carlson CHRIS


Idaho’s first Congressional District is the only Idaho congressional district to have twice selected women to represent its interests in the Congress of the United States. The first was Democrat Gracie Pfost (pronounced Post) from Nampa who served five terms from 1950 to 1960. The second was Republican Helen Chenoweth from Orofino who served three terms from 1994 to 2000.

As Republican and conservative as the district is, there is a long shot possibility they may just send another woman, and a Democrat at that, to represent their interests in the Halls of Congress.

Last week long-time educator and veteran state legislator Rep. Shirley Ringo from Moscow announced her intention to seek the Democratic nomination for the right to challenge Congressman Raul Labrador in November of 2014.

No one gives her much of a chance to win the most Republican district in the nation.

Even though a little over five years ago the district was represented by conservative Democrat Walt Minnick, and even though the district has sent women to Congress before. Additionally, a little known historical footnote:

Idaho’s First Congressional District has the distinction of being the first in the nation ever where both major political parties had women candidates as their standard bearers.

Ringo, a former school teacher, makes it clear she is in the race to win, and does not consider herself to just be a sacrificial lamb. She has an excellent knowledge of the education issue and can patiently explain the most arcane elements of Common Core or other education testing.

Although education is primarily a local and state issue, much funding comes from the federal level as well as direction regarding Common Core testing standards. Rep. Ringo knows this issue cold and will appeal to many voters and parents concerned about their children’s future.

Unlike many former teachers, she neither lectures, nor pontificates. She has a preference that teachers lead by example. No one will ever accuse her, either, of being feisty and combative, like her two predecessors. She speaks softly but her knowledge and passion, as well as politeness speak loudly.

Undaunted by the task of challenging an incumbent who is smooth, articulate, and charming, she believes that if district voters are educated about Labrador’s affiliation with the Tea Party element of the GOP and some of their downright wacko beliefs they will begin to view Labrador differently.

She can point out that Labrador has neither denounced nor distanced himself from such nonsense as repeal of the 17th amendment that provides for direct election of U.S. senators, a return to the gold standard, shutting down government unless ObamaCare is defunded and a host other wing-nut beliefs.

At 72 years of age, some may believe she is too old to accumulate much seniority in Congress, but she can point out that Labrador, by alienating House Speaker John Boehner, will have little to show for his seniority. She can also question his judgment for participating in the ill-conceived, poorly executed coup against Boehner.

She also may be the beneficial recipient of some financial support from supporters of Labrador’s second district colleague, Congressman Mike Simpson. Labrador’s playing footsie with the Tea Party and Club for Growth folks supporting Simpson’s primary challenger, Idaho Falls attorney

Bryan Smith, has angered many Simpson supporters.

Labrador denied speculation in a previous column that he had anything to do with recruiting Smith or connecting him to the Club for Growth, but five days after rebuking your esteemed correspondent, he told the D.C. based publication Politico that he would neither affirm nor deny any speculation on the subject.

And he admitted to Lewiston Tribune editorial writer Marty Trillhause that since Smith announced he had talked to him by phone a few times. This messing in a colleague’s backyard has angered moderate and progressive Republicans, many of whom may find it more attractive to contribute to Ringo’s campaign than to the hopeless primary challenge to Labrador being mounted by a college student.

Idaho’s First Congressional district just may have a quieter but still effective version of Gracie Pfost in Shirley Ringo. She may surprise. Time will tell.

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