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Idaho’s Minnick Says He’s Done for Good

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On election night, the tech-savvy Minnick campaign issued a concession statement on Twitter. It was seemingly a first for political concessions, and Twitter recently named it one of the “Ten Most Powerful Tweets of 2010.”

The person responsible for that tweet was campaign manager John Foster. Like Minnick, Foster is also moving on from Democratic politics in Idaho, having signed on at Strategies 360, where he’ll shift his communication skills toward business affairs.

There is only so much work for Democrats in Boise, with Republicans holding the governor’s mansion, both Senate seats and the two House seats, and controlling 80 percent of the seats in both the state House and Senate.

Including Minnick, three Democrats have been elected to either of the state’s two House seats since 1966, serving a combined seven terms compared with the 37 terms served by Republicans in that time.

The state hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1974 or voted for a Democrat for president since 1964.

Minnick’s defeat of Rep. Bill Sali in 2008 seemed to offer a road map for Democratic candidates in the state. Sali was unpopular, but he represented one of the most conservative districts in the country. Minnick won nearly 50,000 more votes than President Barack Obama, who lost the district by 26 points. Obama had won a tiny Democratic primary caucus on Super Tuesday in 2008.

Minnick’s votes against cap-and-trade, health care reform and the stimulus upset some of the more liberal members of the state’s Democratic Party. Others hailed his independence from the national party as exactly what the local party needs to overcome the state’s tendency to vote Republican.

“Frankly, that’s the direction we need to go — we need someone like Walt to introduce those Democratic ideas to Idahoans and say that it’s OK to vote for a D,” said Ada County Democratic Party Chairwoman Chryssa Rich. “The more liberal you are, the less likely you are to be elected in Idaho. It has to be a transition, and we have to get people used to the idea of voting for a Democrat and not let the other party brand us.”

Minnick says things would have been different had this not been a cycle when Democrats lost a net of 63 House seats, six Senate seats and nearly 700 state legislative seats nationwide.

“There’s clearly an opportunity for a Democrat to win in a year where the election really is based on local issues and the profile of one candidate versus another,” Minnick said. “In that kind of an environment, I think I would’ve won.”

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