Curiouser and Curiouser: Idaho’s Labrador helps Otter raise dough for 2014

Despite openly mulling a challenge to Republican Gov. Butch Otter in the May 2014 primary, 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador is co-hosting a fundraiser for Otter on Monday in Washington, D.C.

Labrador has said he hopes to make up his mind by mid-year. Meanwhile, Labrador has put his name  on the invitation for the Otter for Idaho event on Capitol Hill at the National Republican Club, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Other hosts are Lt. Gov. Brad Little and the three other Idaho Republicans in Congress, Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson. The event does not have a suggested donation, but Otter’s two-time campaign manager, Debbie Field, said contributors will comply with the maximum allowed contribution of $5,000 for the primary and $5,000 for the general election.

Early this month I wrote about Labrador’s rock-star reception at a standing-room-only town hall in Meridian, suggesting that 2014 may be his moment. At that Jan. 31 meeting, Labrador said he was flattered by talk of his running for governor, considering the matter and hoped to decide by mid-year.

On Feb. 8, Otter said he was preparing to run in 2014, when he turns 72, but was not ready to formally announce. Otter said he was raising money and held a Boise fundraiser Feb. 16.

I’ve been trying to get an explanation from Labrador since Thursday afternoon, when I learned of his  role in the Otter event. Late this morning, I heard back from Labrador’s district director, Jake Ball.

I asked Ball whether Labrador’s support of Otter signals that he won’t make the race and, if not, why he is helping Otter at this stage.

Ball’s reply, while appreciated, was opaque: “Congressman Labrador has not made a decision about his future. He is currently dedicating all of his energies to serving his constituents in the First Congressional District and fixing the problems that the United States and Idaho face with regards to fiscal matters and our broken immigration system.”

Field, a former Boise lawmaker and Otter drug czar, said she is an “active volunteer” on the 2014 but is not at this time holding the “campaign manager” title.

I asked Field what to make of Labrador’s backing. Said Field: “I know the Governor appreciates the support of the entire Idaho Congressional Delegation for this event. I’m not going to let words of support for the 2014 gubernatorial campaign come from anyone except the Congressman.”

Otter is in Washington for a National Governors Association meeting. Monday morning he joins his colleagues at the White House for a meeting with President Obama. Monday at noon, Lori Otter will lunch at the Kennedy Center with Michelle Obama and other first spouses.

On Tuesday, Otter will testify before the House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation. Labrador is a member of the panel, which is part of the Committee on Natural Resources.

Otter is the first witness in the hearing, titled, “State Forest Management: A Model for Promoting Healthy Forests, Rural Schools and Jobs.”

Others scheduled to testify include Nez Perce Tribe Chairman Silas Whitman, Lewis County, Wash., County Commissioner Lee Grose and Matt Jensen of the American Loggers Council.





Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

Posted in Idaho Politics