Labrador, patting self on back, explains why he held Idaho town halls

Idaho’s junior member of Congress, Republican Rep. Raul Labrador, says he’s been asked why he bothered to hold four town halls during the August recess. His senior colleagues — GOP Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and GOP Rep. Mike Simpson — didn’t hold any such unscripted Q & A’s.

In his electronic newsletter, Labrador says he prefers the old-fashioned way of taking constituents’ temperatures, “getting out and talking to people.”

“When it comes to representing Idaho’s First District, I don’t need a ‘massive research effort’ to ‘develop a message,’” Labrador writes. “What I do is simple: I listen, I keep an open mind, I speak from the heart, and if some people disagree with me, I’m not offended.”

Labrador also cites a recent column lamenting the decline of town halls, written by Peggy Noonan, who wrote speeches for Labrador’s political hero, President Ronald Reagan.

Crapo, Risch and Simpson have been in state this month, traveling widely and holding numerous meetings, including stops at newspaper editorial boards. Risch speaks Friday at a lunch hosted by the City Club of Idaho Falls. But none of the three took the risk of standing before a rabble that might get testy with them about the state of affairs in Washington. The trio, however, do occasionally hold telephonic town halls.

Labrador also spoke with opinion-writers, but organized town halls in Meridian, Lewiston, Grangeville and Council, taking questions from the audience.

Here’s an excerpt from Labrador’s newsletter:

This month, a lot of people kept asking me: “Why are you doing so many town halls” and “Why are you keeping such a busy schedule?”  And I replied by highlighting a recent column by Peggy Noonan, in which she lamented that politicians are spending millions of dollars every year to “develop a message” through “massive research,” instead of doing it the old fashioned way – getting out and talking to people.

When it comes to representing Idaho’s First District, I don’t need a “massive research effort” to “develop a message.”  What I do is simple: I listen, I keep an open mind, I speak from the heart, and if some people disagree with me, I’m not offended.  When it comes to the issues of the day, you and I may not agree on everything, but my promise to you is that you’ll always know where I stand.  If that makes me unpopular with some people – whether they’re from Washington, DC or Idaho – that’s fine.  Because that’s the leadership we need.  And that’s the leadership I want to keep providing.

This August has been an experience I will always treasure.  Thank you again for the honor of serving you in Congress.  I remain grateful for your trust and confidence.

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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