BOISE, Idaho — The list of Idaho Republicans condemning a GOP gubernatorial candidate's comments about buying a license to hunt President Barack Obama grew Friday, as party leaders worried the incident would reflect badly on the state.
U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo said former elk rancher Rex Rammell's comment at a Twin Falls GOP merits an apology, U.S. Sen. Jim Risch disavowed him from the Republican Party, and Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter called Rammell's comment "reckless and inflammatory."
Rammell is among those running in the 2010 Idaho GOP primary against incumbent Otter.
On Tuesday, a GOP rally attendee shouted a question about "Obama tags" during discussion of Idaho's upcoming wolf hunt, where hunters must purchase $11.50 wolf tags.
Rammell responded, "The Obama tags? We'd buy some of those."
In a statement Friday, Crapo said, "Rex Rammell's comments are in very poor taste and should not have been said. Remarks like these should not even be made jokingly. He should apologize for those remarks and for the perception they may have created."
Otter said Friday afternoon that there was no place for Rammell's comments in Idaho, which he said damages confidence in the political process and those who serve the public.
"As governor, as an Idaho Republican and as a citizen of our state, I reject and condemn this kind of rhetoric," he said.
Rammell, a longshot GOP candidate who as an independent garnered just 5.4 percent of the vote in his unsuccessful 2008 U.S. Senate run against Risch, has refused to apologize and said he doesn't advocate assassinating Obama.
"Anyone who understands the law knows I was just joking, because Idaho has no jurisdiction to issue hunting tags in Washington D.C.," he said.
Rammell isn't the first Rexburg resident who has drawn attention for making an anti-Obama comment.
Last November, second- and third-grade students on a school bus there chanted "Assassinate Obama" after his election, prompting the mayor of this eastern Idaho town to publicly apologize.
U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson also criticized Rammell's comments, which he said weren't a true reflection of Idaho residents' hearts.
"It is absolutely irresponsible to say such inflammatory things, especially for someone who seeks to be a leader in Idaho," Simpson said. "I know our great state is filled with people who do not share Rex Rammell's views and we should not let isolated situations dictate how our state is perceived."
Risch has tangled with Rammell before, in 2006.
That summer, more than 100 elk from Rammell's ranch near Rexburg escaped into the wilds, prompting Risch, then Idaho's governor, to order an emergency hunt to prevent the spread of disease or interbreeding with wild elk herds near Yellowstone National Park.
Rammell's political run two years later against Risch for U.S. Senate — a race Rammell contested as an independent — was seen largely as an attempt to settle a personal grudge.
On Friday, Risch disowned Rammell as a GOP colleague.
"Everyone needs to remember the last time Rex Rammell ran for public office, he said, 'I'm not really a Republican.' He then filed as an independent," Risch said in a telephone interview from Lewiston, Idaho. "I agree with him. He's not a Republican. We all have our disagreements with the president, sometimes deep disagreements. But the man is the president of the United States and deserves to be treated as such."