Election Central

Idaho CD2: Democrat Stallings cranks up campaign machine

The Republican who wins the May 20 primary battle over Idaho’s 2d congressional district will be the favorite to win that seat in November’s general election.

But the Republican nominee, whether it’s incumbent Mike Simpson or challenger Bryan Smith, might find it’s tougher to vanquish Democrats’ opposition than in the past few election cycles.

This year, Richard Stallings gives Democrats a respected and seasoned candidate. In fact, Stallings was the last Democrat to represent the 2d district. First elected in 1984, Stallings hung on to his seat until 1992, when he lost a bid for the U.S. Senate to Republican Dirk Kempthorne. After that, President Clinton appointed him to help devise solutions for storing spent nuclear fuel that’s currently kept on the site of commercial reactors. He later served on the Pocatello City Council and worked for a non-profit group that helps low- to moderate-income families buy homes.

Stallings stopped by the Statesman on Thursday to chat about his campaign, which is just now taking root. He said he’s putting together organizations in every county in the district, and soon will start raising money in earnest.

I asked Stallings if he’d rather face Smith or Simpson. Here’s what he said:

“I would have a better shot at Smith, because he would antagonize a big part of the Republican center. However, if I’m thinking about the well being of the state, then I’ve got to say Simpson. Because, again, he’s the best of the delegation.

“Simpson is just a hair better than (the rest of Idaho’s congressional delegation). But still, I think we deserve better…We’ve had some great, great political leaders. All of a sudden we’ve got this group that seem to be intent on not serving Idaho but hurting Idaho.”

Not that Stallings is a Simpson fan. He said Simpson bears his share of the blame for being part of a Congress that’s managed to earn the disapproval of just about everybody in the country.

“The fact that Congress has an approval rating of 9 percent speaks volumes,” Stallings said. “Hemorrhoids have about 10-percent approval rating. You know, that speaks pretty seriously about the job you’re doing.”

Stallings is correct that a Gallup poll showed Congress’ approval rating hit 9 percent — an all-time low — in the wake of November’s government shutdown. Since then, polls show approval for Congress rebounding — to a still ice-cold 13 percent. Here’s a look at the relative popularity of hemorrhoids.

Stallings blamed Tea Party Republicans — the hard-right group that Smith’s campaign has ties to — for a hostile, uncivil atmosphere in Congress and throughout the nation’s political discourse.

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