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Updated: Dec. 17, 7:56 a.m.
Rep. Walt Minnick was defeated for re-election after serving just one term representing his state’s western Congressional district, and the Blue Dog tells Roll Call he’s gone for good. Looking ahead at redistricting in his deep-red state, it may be awhile before another Idaho Democrat makes it back.
“I think I’m done with elective politics,” Minnick said in an interview with Roll Call. “I’m not sure what I’m going to do, but I think it’s time for somebody else.”
The Idaho Democratic Party’s best chance at winning a House seat in the next 10 years may shift east to Republican Rep. Mike Simpson’s 2nd district. With the 1st district believed to have an edge of 100,000 people, the district line, which currently runs down Boise’s Cole Road, may shift west to push all of Boise into Simpson’s district.
Western Boise can be a swing area, according to GOP insiders in the state, and is represented by a Republican in the state Legislature. Still, shifting the boundaries would also bring in a large number of Democrats. That would begin to shift the mostly balanced districts away from each other — they voted nearly identically in the past two presidential elections, with Republican candidates winning handily.
Insiders from both parties told Roll Call that the redistricting option still would not put the popular Simpson, who is expected to become an Appropriations Cardinal in the next Congress, in danger — at least not in a general election. Should he retire or seek higher office, however, the open seat could present an opportunity for Democrats.
“Of course a Democrat can win in Idaho,” Minnick said.
On the trail this year during his unsuccessful bid for re-election, Minnick often recited the fact that he was the most independent House Member, as he voted with his party less often than the other 434 Representatives.
His independence and votes against some of the big-ticket Democratic agenda items even led to support from a national tea party organization that had otherwise endorsed Republicans. He later declined the support, and by October the Tea Party Express had switched its endorsement to his opponent, Rep.-elect Raul Labrador.
Minnick was also the sole Democrat endorsed by the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste Political Action Committee.
It mattered little, however, as Minnick was caught in a wave that even a popular centrist running against an underdog Republican could not withstand. Minnick outspent Labrador 3-to-1, but the Republican still won by 10 points, 51 percent to 41 percent.
“I might’ve fit the profile of a winner, but it was a bad year,” Minnick said just off the House floor before one of his last votes in Congress. “It was a big wave, and I was on a low island.”