Talk with Congressman Russ Fulcher and you’ll get the idea that this year’s elections have all the drama of a yawning festival.
He figures, probably correctly so, that people have made up their minds about President Trump. As Fulcher puts it, “Everything he has done and said has been done and said. He either has the numbers, or he doesn’t.”
Trump is bound to win in Idaho, of course, and it doesn’t take a fearless forecaster to predict that Republicans will continue to occupy the Gem State’s congressional offices. Sure, it’s possible that Joe Biden will carry Idaho, Paulette Jordan will send Sen. Jim Risch into retirement and Rudy Soto and Aaron Swisher will pull monumental upsets in House races.
“I don’t see that happening, and that’s not a shot at Rudy or anybody else,” Fulcher says.
For now, at least, Fulcher is not taking shots of any kind at Soto, the 34-year-old Canyon County Democrat who is working his tail off on the campaign trail. Fulcher doesn’t see the need for comparing Soto to Bernie Sanders, or spreading fears about socialism of the Green New Deal.
“From what I can tell, he’s running an honorable campaign,” Fulcher said. “He’s giving voters a choice. It’s not like the primary campaign where there were flat-out lies.”
Soto is not so charitable toward Fulcher, comparing him to former Congressman Bill Sali – the one Republican who was bounced out of office after one term (2008) and suggesting that Fulcher has brought an “Ammon Bundy style of politics to Washington, D.C.”
Soto backs his claims with an independent survey that ranks Fulcher as one of the most partisan members of the House. “He can’t even get bill sponsorship from his own party,” Soto says.
Fulcher is part of the conservative-based House Freedom Caucus, and Soto wants to join the Problem Solver’s Caucus, which has members from both parties.
Soto says he’d work well with Congressman Mike Simpson and it would be “an absolute honor and privilege” to work with Sens. Mike Crapo and Risch (if he wins re-election). “They are at the forefront of bringing resources back to rural communities and I would be helping advance their initiatives in the House.”
Soto, a veteran of the Army National Guard, is no stranger to the Washington politics, having worked as a congressional staffer and on a variety of issues. He promises to limit himself to three terms and to vote against retaining House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying “it’s time for new blood.”
On that point, Fulcher will agree. He has complained for two years about how Pelosi handles business in the House. But for his congressional seat, he sees himself as the right guy for the job.
“I believe that experience matters and that I am uniquely qualified to represent Idaho,” he says.
“I’ll put my resume up against anyone with my knowledge of the state and deep roots here. I have a track record for building relationships not only with our delegation, but with other members. If they’re trying to paint me as someone who works on the right side of the aisle and never talks with anyone, that’s a bunch of baloney.”
But given the conservative nature of his district, he was not elected to be cozy with Democrats.
Fulcher wants nothing to do with Pelosi, or the party’s progressive agenda. “If you are in the Panhandle of Idaho and advertise that you are spending all your time across the aisle, that’s the quickest way to get unelected,” he says.
Fulcher heads into the election with a healthy degree of confidence. “I think most people in the first district know who I am. They may like me or not, but they know what they get.”
And as with President Trump on Election Day, the numbers will be there for Fulcher … or they won’t.
Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org