One thing about Republicans is that they detest “activist” judges from the left who make laws rather than interpret them.
So, how about “activist” attorneys general? It depends on who is sitting in the AG’s office. If it’s a Democrat who challenged Trump-era policies, then it’s not good in the eyes of the GOP faithful. But it may be another story when it’s a Republican butting heads with a Democratic administration.
At least, that’s what Raul Labrador, a former Idaho Republican congressman, is hoping for in his campaign for attorney general. He wants to be a hard-charging activist.
Hard-charging is the only game Labrador knows. He served four terms in Congress and was one of the founders of the “Freedom Caucus,” which drove some of the more moderate Republican leaders nuts. As a 38-year-old state representative from Eagle, Labrador established himself as a leader for conservative causes. As a candidate for governor in 2018, a race he didn’t win, Labrador talked much about how he would shake up things in Idaho’s Capitol.
Now, he’s taking aim at Biden and the Democrats, with an army of Republican attorneys general backing him.
“If you look nationally, there needs to be a pushback on the Biden administration and its unlawful agenda – where he thinks he can use OSHA rules to tell businesses what they have to mandate what their employees do,” Labrador said. “Over my career, I have always been about protecting the individual rights of Idahoans and making sure that government is not encroaching on our critical ability to prosper.”
It won’t be an easy race, for sure. Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, who has held the office for 20 years, is running again, with lesser-known GOP challengers in the fray.
It will be an interesting race to watch. Some legislators, especially from the conservative side, don’t like Wasden, but it’s a similar situation with Labrador. Some folks like him and some don’t. The styles are different, with Wasden being more of a referee. Labrador would like to work with legislators in crafting bills, opposed to issuing opinions that legislators might not like.
With him as attorney general, Labrador says, legislators won’t need to hire a private attorney. “It will be, because they will trust that they are able to work with me and that I will have their best interests in mind.”
Translation: If conservative principles clash with the Constitution, Labrador is more apt to take issues to court. Labrador, an avid Trump supporter, would have signed onto the Texas lawsuit challenging the presidential election results in other states.
“The basis of that lawsuit was that some states had not followed the Constitution broadly,” Labrador said.
For now, his focus is on the Biden administration.
“At each and every turn, Joe Biden is sending our nation down the wrong path. Unconstitutional mandates, extreme job-killing regulations and actions pushing inflation, open borders fueling illegal immigration and attacks on our pro-life values and constitutional Second Amendment rights – that’s the Biden agenda,” Labrador said in a fund-raising letter.
“One of the only ways to stop Biden is through the federal courts. And too many times Idaho is on the sidelines as other state attorneys general sue to fight back,” he said. “I won’t sit on the sidelines as our freedoms and values are under attack.”
Labrador is a controversial figure, loved by hardline conservatives and loathed by liberals – but with a likable personality. As a legislator and member of Congress, he often worked on a number of bipartisan causes. Some of his favorite letters in Congress came from grateful constituents who didn’t vote for him.
“I have no problem working with people who disagree with me. I was raised by a mom who was a Democrat and she disagreed with me on many issues – and she was a person I loved most in the world,” Labrador said.
“Everyone knows that I am a strong conservative and I will always lean toward what comes from the conservative end of the Republican Party. But because of my style, and the way I work with people, I have support from all factions of the party. And that’s the only way you can win elections. If you speak only to people who agree with you most of the time, you will not win.”
Labrador easily poses the toughest challenge Wasden has faced in his career.
Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org