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The other congressman

richardson

The wrong Republican Congressman is running for governor. Raul Labrador has thrown his hat in the ring, but I wish it were Mike Simpson making the race.

Simpson and Labrador both represent Idaho in Congress, but the quality of their representation varies greatly. While Labrador, a spotlight hungry member of the so-called House Freedom Caucus, has become an anti-government icon, Simpson represents an ever more rare brand of Republican pragmatism.

Make no mistake. I haven’t forgotten some of Simpson’s more odious votes – like his vote to repeal the ACA. In a great many respects, he is not my perfect cup of gubernatorial tea. But in this ruby red state, Simpson might be the best the Republicans could offer.

To his credit, Simpson has stood apart from his Republican colleagues – Crapo, Risch, and Labrador – in openly distancing himself from the president. Moreover, he has shown a willingness to work with House members on the other side of the political aisle.

Before heading to Congress, both Simpson and Labrador served in the Idaho state House of Representatives. “Served” doesn’t quite describe Labrador’s tenure. A back bencher with a penchant for making headlines but not passing legislation, Labrador had a brief and unremarkable record. In contrast, Simpson was – by most accounts – a very capable, fair-minded state legislator and one of the most adept speakers of the Idaho House.

Anyone who listened to Simpson eulogize his friend Cece Andrus could hear notes of self-deprecating humor, thoughtful reflection, and real humility in his remarks. He gave Cece a lot of credit for the successful passage of his landmark Boulder-White Clouds legislation. I can’t recall Raul giving anyone else, let alone a Democrat, credit for anything.

A few of my friends will be quick to tell me that all Republicans are venal and that Mike Simpson is no exception. I beg to differ. Robert Smylie was a great Republican governor. Phil Batt was too. If he were inclined to run, Simpson would follow in those altogether reasonable footsteps.

Would I prefer a Democrat hold the office? No question about it. And I remain confident that the Democrats will nominate an outstanding candidate. But wouldn’t it be great if the Republicans would do so as well?

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