Idaho Republicans back Democrat for attorney general

BOISE (AP) — Nearly 50 longtime Idaho Republicans, including a former governor and dozens of other former and current office holders, endorsed the Democratic nominee for attorney general in the November election on Tuesday. .

Republicans attended a Statehouse press conference with Boise attorney Tom Arkoosh, who said he had no political ambitions other than to run the office fairly.

“Tom Arkoosh is the first candidate on the Democratic ticket that I have backed in my 66 years working with the Republican Party,” said Republican Senator Patti Anne Lodge, the powerful chair of the State Affairs Committee. of the Senate who is retiring this year.

The other three current office holders endorsing Arkoosh are also stepping down this year, either through retirement or primary losses. But Arkoosh’s list of supporters includes many well-known Republicans.

“I want to thank my Republican friends for seeing me as a candidate, not a party politician,” Arkoosh said, adding that he would like the endorsements to start a broader conversation about what voters want in the election. Deeply conservative state that hasn’t sent a Democrat to the Attorney General’s office since 1991.

“When this conversation happens, we will move away from extremism,” he said. “We’ll be all Idahoans again.”

Arkoosh announced his candidacy in July after former U.S. Representative Raul Labrador defeated incumbent Attorney General Lawrence Wasden in the Republican primary in May.

Arkoosh and the Republicans who support him say Labrador will turn the office into a partisan base to pursue his own political ambitions. Wasden is well known for a strategy he describes as even-handedly calling balls and strikes on legal issues, frequently irritating fellow Republicans in ruby-red Idaho.

Labrador, which ran for governor four years ago but lost to current Gov. Brad Little in the Republican primary, said voters were looking for an aggressive, conservative attorney general. He said he would not put politics above the law and would work with lawmakers to craft bills that would survive legal challenges.

Labrador, in a statement to The Associated Press, called Republicans “backroom insiders” at Arkoosh. He noted his main win earlier this year and said he won fans forever.

“I’m running to represent the people of Idaho in protecting their freedom, our state’s sovereignty, and our shared Idaho values,” he said.

Arkoosh said he spent years as an independent but registered as a Republican to vote in the May primary. He moved to the Democratic Party to run for attorney general, saying he feared Labrador would run the office as a shameless political opportunist if elected. Arkoosh said he will make decisions required by law and what is best for the state.

Among those backing Arkoosh are former Governor Phil Batt, former Attorney General and Idaho Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones and former Secretary of State Ben Ysursa.

“Being a lifelong Republican, it’s hard to support a Democratic candidate,” Ysursa said. “But Tom Arkoosh is clearly the best candidate. He is known as a competent, ethical and highly experienced lawyer who strongly believes in the rule of law.”

Former First Lady Lori Otter, wife of former Republican Gov. CL “Butch” Otter, also supports Arkoosh.

“We don’t hire our personal attorney to give us political advice, but to make sure we’re operating legally and avoiding legal trouble,” she said. “That’s what Tom Arkoosh pledged to do for the state of Idaho.”

Past lawmakers ignored Wasden’s warnings about passing unconstitutional laws. As a result, the state has paid millions in attorney fees to the winning side in lost court cases.

Most recently, in August, Idaho officials agreed to pay $321,000 in legal fees after lawmakers in 2020 made it harder for transgender people to change the sex listed on their birth certificates despite a ruling by American justice prohibiting such obstacles. The state previously paid $75,000 after losing the original case in 2018.

Among the Republicans supporting Arkoosh on Tuesday are State Representatives Fred Wood and Scott Syme, State Senator Fred Martin, former Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney, former Cassia County Sheriff Jay Heward , former Superintendent of Public Instruction Jerry Evans and former Idaho State Treasurer Lydia Judge Edwards.

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