As I write this, the filing deadline for elective office in Idaho is fast approaching. No Democrat has yet announced against Sen. Mike Crapo, who is on the ballot this November. Given the dismal track record of Idaho’s Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate that is unsurprising. Moreover, Crapo is sitting on a campaign war chest of over $5 million, and there’s likely more where that came from; Crapo’s top contributors are special interests with very deep pockets – insurance, securities and investment, real estate, and pharmaceuticals.
But Crapo, who brandishes Trump’s endorsement like a badge of honor, badly needs a challenger; and perhaps the strongest challenger to Crapo is not a Democrat, but an independent, ideally a former Republican who is ready to reject Trump and his many lies. We have an example of this in our neighboring state of Utah where Evan McMullin, an American political activist and former Central Intelligence Agency operations officer who ran as an independent during the 2016 United States presidential election, is challenging incumbent Senator Mike Lee.
McMullin, a former Republican, believes that Republicans who care about the survivability of our republic should reject any candidate who aligns with an authoritarian thug. McMullin said of Lee, “I like to believe he went [to Washington, D.C.] as a principled constitutional conservative, but if you aid and abet an effort to overturn the republic, you can no longer claim to be that.”
The same could be said of Crapo.
Crapo, like Lee, enabled Trump’s effort to subvert the 2020 election process. Both men voted to acquit Trump for his role in the January 6th insurrection and opposed the formation of an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the riot. Despite the many recent revelations that Trump fostered and facilitated an attempted coup, Crapo has remained complicit in his silence.
Utah, like Idaho, is heavily conservative. In order for McMullin, a former Republican, to beat Lee in the Beehive State he will need to unite Democrats, independents, and Trump-averse Republicans. He has gotten off to a strong start. Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger endorsed McMullin, saying “Evan has stood up to extremism in every form [and] to fix politics, we need to do things differently.” Ben McAdams, a former Democratic congressman from Utah has also endorsed McMullin and urged his party to support him. McAdams, who calls McMullin a “patriot, independent of both political parties,” echoes Kinzinger in asking “what have we got to lose by trying something new?”
Perhaps a capable Democratic challenger to Crapo will yet emerge. Perhaps he, or she, will be able to break 40%, something no Democrat running for the Senate from Idaho has accomplished since 1986 when Steve Symms narrowly defeated challenger and then governor John V. Evans. But if no credible Democrat steps up to the plate, Crapo ought not run unopposed; he does not deserve a free ride.
McMullin believes that, in today’s America, ‘the primary dividing line in American politics isn’t Republicans versus Democrats. It’s freedom versus despotism, order versus chaos, truth versus lies, and fear versus love.” It has become painfully clear on which side of the line Crapo stands. He stands with Trump.
In McMullin, Utah has a model of integrity, an individual who has the courage to defend the Constitution, promote civic responsibility and protect American democracy. Here’s hoping Idaho has an Evan McMullin, a principled conservative who will fight for freedom and truth, someone who will challenge Crapo, run as a true independent, and unite those of us – Democrats, unaffiliated, and Republicans – who are committed to the preservation of our Union.