Idaho: Primary Voters Reject NRCC-Favored Ward

Posted May 26, 2010 at 6:13pm

One-term Rep. Walt Minnick (D) will face state Rep. Raul Labrador (R) this fall after voters in Tuesday’s primary rejected a GOP establishment that had backed the candidacy of Vaughn Ward, a military veteran and ex-CIA official.

Ward outspent Labrador but lost 48 percent to 39 percent in the 1st district race.

The National Republican Congressional Committee had included Ward among its first 10 “Young Guns” recruits, and he had the endorsement of former Gov. Dirk Kempthorne.

But the NRCC’s backing and a late campaign visit by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin couldn’t pull Ward from a mostly self-inflicted tailspin that included allegations of campaign plagiarism.

His campaign was accused of lifting the text for some issue statements from other Republican candidates, and Ward was accused of using a portion of a speech President Barack Obama delivered at the 2004 Democratic National Convention — side-by-side clips of Ward’s version and Obama’s original words were posted on websites and repeated on television talk shows.

Labrador, an immigration attorney who’s completing his second term in the state House, has amassed a conservative record that will help him in a district that gave Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) 62 percent of the vote in the 2008 presidential election.

He will enter the general election at a financial disadvantage. As of May 5, his campaign account held just $36,000, compared with $936,000 banked at that point by Minnick. The incumbent subsequently topped the $1 million mark in cash on hand.