Former GOP Gov. Phil Batt, who backed Vaughn Ward's losing campaign in the primary for 1st District Congress, says he'd intended to keep quiet about his preference in the general election.
But Batt says Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick's two TV ads attacking GOP nominee Raul Labrador for his practice of immigration law have prompted him to announce his support for Labrador. Batt also said it is "imperative" that Republicans control the House and impose financial discipline. Batt supplied a written statement to the Idaho Statesman, preferring that route to an announcement by the Labrador campaign.
"Walt Minnick has made some courageous votes in Congress, usually reflecting the views of most Idahoans.
"Nevertheless, it is imperative that this nation reverse the headlong rush toward fiscal insolvency taking place under the Democratic leadership. We must replace Speaker Pelosi and her crew of Democrats. Therefore, I am endorsing Mr. Raul Labrador for Congress.
"I supported Mr. Labrador's opponent in the primary election and had intended to refrain from public comment during the period leading to the general election.
"But Mr. Minnick's dishonest attempt to warp Mr. Labrador's views on illegal immigration have prompted me to break my silence. I'm backing Raul Labrador for congressman from Idaho's 1st District."
Batt declined to elaborate on the statement.
At 83, Batt is an iconic figure for many Idaho Republicans, and widely respected by Democrats for his even-handed governance during his single term in office, from 1995-1999. Batt defeated Democratic Attorney General Larry EchoHawk in a come-from-behind race in 1994. But he stepped aside in 1998 for then-U.S. Sen. Dirk Kempthorne, who was subsequently elected to two terms.
Among Batt's accomplishments as governor was convincing a reluctant GOP Legislature to extend the mandate that employers carry workers compensation insurance to farmworkers, who are largely Hispanic. Batt also served 14 years in the Legislature. His civil rights accomplishments include mandating field toilets for farmworkers, creation of the Idaho Human Rights Commission and establishment of the Martin Luther King/Idaho Human Rights Day as a state holiday in January.
An onion grower and packer whose family farm is in Wilder, Batt was lieutenant governor from 1979 to 1983 and his party's nominee for governor in 1982, when he lost to Democratic Gov. John Evans by 4,208 votes.
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