Election Central

Idaho’s Smith-Simpson top test of tea party challenges to incumbents, says Politico

Idaho Falls lawyer Bryan Smith’s challenge to eight-term Republican Congressman Mike Simpson is emblematic of 2014 intraparty contests with Republicans “hitting one another in a growing number of primaries propelled by the party’s nasty split over the federal shutdown and debt crisis.”

So says the Washington Beltway online political website Politico in a story published Monday, “Shutdown fuels Republican primaries.”

Reporter Alex Isenstadt says the Idaho race is “getting the most attention” to date. Isenstadt notes that Simpson is close to embattled House Speaker John Boehner and that Smith is “backed by the Club for Growth, the anti-tax group trying to steer congressional Republicans to the right.”

Smith also is backed by three other tea party fueled groups, FreedomWorks, the Madison Project and Citizens United.

Simpson’s supporters include a new federal committee founded by the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, the Republican Main Street Partnership and the American Chemistry Council.

Simpson was among 87 Republicans who voted for last week’s resolution to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling, a move criticized by Smith as lacking courage and kicking the can down the road. Smith called Simpson Idaho’s “odd man out” because the rest of the all-GOP Idaho delegation — Rep. Raul Labrador and Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch — voted against the deal to reopen the government and allow the Treasury to borrow to pay the government’s bills.

An excerpt from Isenstadt:

In recent weeks, (Smith and Simpson) have skirmished over the shutdown. Smith hammered Simpson for supporting a “clean” continuing resolution to fund the government. “After 16 long years in Washington, liberal Congressman Mike Simpson has forgotten our conservative Idaho values,” Smith’s campaign charged in a radio ad.

Simpson shot back in a competing radio ad that highlighted his efforts to defund Obamacare. “Everyone knows that Mike Simpson is a proven conservative Republican,” it declared.

Club for Growth President Chris Chocola said the fiscal fights are potent grist for primaries, giving challengers an opening to tap into grass-roots frustration by attacking the party’s approach to fiscal issues as overly accommodating.

“Republicans run on a message of limited government, fiscal responsibility, less debt, more growth, and that’s what these battles are,” he said. “There is a growing sense [among voters] that, ‘You haven’t done these things.’”

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.

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Posted in Election Central, Idaho Politics