It wasn't quite the orchestrated show of GOP support that surrounded Lt. Gov. Jim Risch's launch into the U.S. Senate race, but 1st District Rep. Bill Sali is boasting some big-name backing in his bid for a second term.
In a Saturday news release, Sali said State Schools Superintendent Tom Luna, House Speaker Lawerence Denney and State Treasurer Ron Crane will co-chair his re-election campaign.
Said Sali: "I think their support is a reflection of the growing support I have gained among Idahoans since taking office. I have been working hard to carry on the legacy of leadership established by Helen Chenoweth and Butch Otter, and it’s humbling to have that work recognized by these statesmen."
Of the three co-chairs, the most noteworthy in the group may be the fellow with the lowest statewide profile: Crane. One of the rumors that got mileage earlier this year had pegged Crane as a possible GOP challenger to Sali in 2008. So much for that one.
Sali has one relatively unknown opponent, Matt Salisbury of Nampa. We're about six months away from the GOP primary and no other name has advanced beyond the rumor stage. That doesn't preclude another primary challenge, but the window is starting to get a little narrower. That's especially the case if a sitting state lawmaker is going to try to juggle three months of legislative work against the logistics of campaigning in a district that stretches from West Boise to the Canadian border.
Meanwhile, Democrats are tripping over each other for a shot at Sali. Northwest political blogger Randy Stapilus style="text-decoration:underline;">offers a good blog post about the looming three-way primary involving former 2006 Democrat nominee Larry Grant, Rand Lewis of Moscow and former U.S. Senate candidate Walt Minnick.
In 2006, Sali emerged from a fractious six-way GOP primary with only 26 percent of the vote. It was enough to get him to the general election where Sali defeated Grant, victor in an easy Democratic primary.
Is it possible, come 2008, that the Democratic nominee will have to survive a bitter primary, while Sali gets to save the bulk of his resources for the general election? That would be ironic — but it's not beyond the realm of possibility.