Mormon Media Observer: Underdog Mormon candidate upsets Idaho GOP

Published: Wednesday, June 2 2010 12:15 a.m. MDT

BOISE, Idaho — Aside from Mitt Romney and Harry Reid, other Mormons are pursuing political office including Raul Labrador, who upset the Republican establishment in his bid for Idaho's 1st Congressional District seat on May 25 and Chad Christensen, a Republican who has a long-shot chance at unseating fellow Mormon Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada.

In Idaho's GOP primary, Labrador beat out the well-heeled Vaughn Ward. Labrador, a tea-party favorite from Eagle, Idaho, beat out Marine reservist Ward who had been supported by Idaho's Republican machine and Washington establishment GOP money. Ward has also been endorsed by high-profile conservatives including Sarah Palin. The Idaho Statesman reported that Ward had a 6-to-1 spending advantage over low-key Labrador.

Ward made several missteps in his campaign, including plagiarizing a Barack Obama speech from the 2004 National Democratic Convention. He also misused pictures of himself in uniform and called Puerto Rico a country. A video juxtaposing the Ward speech and Obama's went viral on YouTube. The Idaho Statesman reported Ward's wife was employed by beleaguered Fannie Mae, which was the recipient of a large government bailout. What followed was called the biggest election \"meltdown in Idaho history.\"

The Idaho Statesman reported:

\"Labrador doesn't like raising money. He managed no TV (while Ward spent heavily), and just two weeks of modest radio ads. But Labrador did well in debates and stuck to his core message: I'm a real conservative, with a record you can trust. 'Labrador's biggest virtue was patience, kind of keeping his mouth shut and waiting for Ward to come back to him in the race,' said Boise State University political scientist Gary Moncrief. Fannie Mae was 'a crack in the dam' that became a flood. 'The mistakes became a whole body of work,' Moncrief said.

Idaho GOP Chairman Norm Semanko said the best man won and Ward's shortfalls were compressed by technology. 'Things are changing right before our eyes with social media and other technology,' Semanko said. 'You have to adapt'.\"

According to his website, Labrador has lived the American dream. He was born in Puerto Rico and was raised in a single parent household. His mother struggled to help him obtain a future and a hope. Through a solid belief in the value of education, Raul's mother moved their small family and Raul obtained a degree from BYU.

He has served in the Idaho Legislature since 2006 and has worked as an immigration attorney. Labrador will face Rep. Walt Minnick, a first-term House Democrat and the first Idaho Democrat elected to the House since 1992. The Washington Post reported Minnick is a key GOP target. Idaho's First Congressional District covers the western half of the state, including Boise and the Idaho panhandle.

To its credit, the Idaho media hasn't made a big deal out of Labrador's faith, which is how journalists should play it.

In other Idaho election news, Rex Rammell, a Mormon from Idaho Falls and conservative who caused controversy because he had advertised campaign meetings with LDS priesthood holders, lost in the primary to incumbent Gov. Butch Otter.

 

Chad Christensen competes in packed Nevada GOP primary

According to a in-depth profile in the Las Vegas Review Journal, Chad Christensen has revealed growing mistrust among Nevada's LDS voters for Reid.

\"Christensen, who jumped into the race at the last minute in a long-shot leap of faith, isn't expected to pick up many votes in the June 8 primary. A dozen candidates are seeking the GOP nomination, including the leading conservative Sharron Angle, competing for the same electoral slice of pie. But, if nothing else, Christensen's campaign has revealed the depth of distrust some members of Reid's church have of the Searchlight native, who was baptized while in college after he grew up with no religion and after his wife converted from the Jewish faith. This apparently diminishing support could be part of Reid's Nov. 2 undoing, since he'll need every vote in his uphill battle for a fifth U.S. Senate term.\"

The Mormon Media Observer would like to feature other Latter-day Saints holding or running for office. If you know of an LDS Church member pursuing major office, e-mail a note at foiguy@gmail.com.

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