Democrat Jimmy Farris is acknowledging he exaggerated when he said he's "never run into" freshman GOP Rep. Raul Labrador during the campaign for Idaho's 1st District congressional seat. In fact, Farris tweeted a photo of him chatting with Labrador at the Canyon County Fair in July.
"Me and @Raul_Labrador at the Canyon Co Fair. The first of many substantive conversations," tweeted a hopeful Farris.
Owning up to his misstatement, Farris said, "You're right. That's legit. I did say I hadn't seen him and I did see him. I should have been more clear about specifying that when I'm out on the trail, anywhere other than basically Boise, this guy doesn't leave home."
Farris said the encounter at the fair was the only time he's seen Labrador, who he accuses of "treating his re-election as if he's unopposed." Farris is experiencing a frustration common among little-known challengers facing incumbents. "I've struggled raising money, but we're running a solid campaign. He just won't engage."
Farris said he's campaigned at "15 or 20" fairs, rodeos and parades this summer and seen Labrador only in Caldwell. Labrador has agreed to two TV debates, Oct. 23 on KTVB-Channel 7 and Oct. 25 on Idaho Public TV.
Labrador, as is his custom with Farris, declined comment. I sought comment from Labrador's official spokesman, Phil Hardy, and his campaign manager, China Gum, asking for information on his official and campaign schedules. Hardy didn't reply to my emails. Wrote Gum, "Hi Dan: no comment."
I did speak with Labrador Monday about his having missed 5 percent of his votes since taking office in January 2011, a rate twice the typical House member. He said he is staying connected to Idaho by traveling home frequently, which has led to some missed votes because of late flights.
"I come home every weekend," Labrador told me. "I'm more accessible to the constituents, more accessible to the people, I can spend time with my family."
Labrador, 44, hasn't hidden the fact he's uncomfortable with life on Capitol Hill. He sleeps on an air mattress in his office and speaks of missing his wife and the four of their five children still at home. Those personal sacrifices have prompted some to speculate Labrador will run for governor in 2014 so he can come home.
For now, Farris alleges Labrador is holing up with his family and ducking the campaign give-and-take. "This guy does not leave home."
Added Farris: "It's no secret that he does not like being in Washington. I don't know where he's at or what he's doing," Farris told me Monday. "The people of Idaho don't know where he's at or what he's doing. They see him every couple months when he does 'Meet the Press' or something like that."
Farris crossed the truth line Wednesday in an appearance with Nate Shelman on KBOI 670. (The audio is in a 3-hour file; Farris appears about 35 minutes in).
"I was up north for weeks at a time campaigning, working the district, out there getting my name out, something that the congressman hasn't been doing," Farris said. "I haven't seen him out on the campaign trail. I've never run into him. I wish I had some good stories about running into him somewhere."
Farris said he wasn't surprised to get my call. "As soon as I said that, I probably knew that was coming."
You can follow Idaho Statesman Politics on Twitter.