Freshman GOP Rep. Raul Labrador is absent from voting at triple the rate of his three predecessors, and his Democratic challenger is calling him on it.
In a news release, Jimmy Farris said Labrador is missing twice as many votes as the typical House member. He accused Labrador of a lack of work ethic and said the people of Idaho need to fire him.
Asked to elaborate Monday, Farris said: He owes it to the people of Idaho to tell them why hes missed those votes.
Labrador cited three major reasons: his now-9-year-old sons weeklong hospitalization in 2011, the first-ever GOP presidential caucus in March, and his own primary in May. Those prompted him to miss full days of votes. Also, he said, five delayed flights from Idaho caused him to miss more.
Still, Labrador said, Farris has a legitimate point.
I dont think its acceptable, Labrador said. Of course, if my son gets sick, Ill miss as many votes as I have to miss. But no, I think I can get that down. The people of Idaho hired me to do a job and I should be there.
Labrador has missed 72 of 1,531 recorded votes, according to GovTrack, which follows Congress. Thats 4.7 percent, almost twice the House median of 2.5 percent.
Labrador looks still worse compared to his three immediate predecessors: Walt Minnick (1.9 percent missed), Bill Sali (1.2 percent) and Idaho Gov. Butch Otter (1.7 percent). Together, Minnick, Sali and Otter missed 113 of 6,962 votes, or 1.6 percent.
Labrador, who lives in Eagle, has become a media darling, in high demand for a junior lawmaker. But he said he missed only two or three votes for interviews.
Early this month, he campaigned in Colorado and Nevada for Mitt Romney but didnt miss any votes. The campaign wants him in Miami on Wednesday for Romneys big interview on the Spanish-language network, Univision, with Jorge Ramos. Labrador is a member of Juntos con Romney, a group working to boost the GOP share of the Hispanic vote.
Labrador said hes willing to miss a few votes Wednesday night, but not a full day of voting Thursday as the House tries to wrap up business this week and recess until after the election.
Im trying to figure out if theres a way for me to get back first thing Thursday morning, he said.
Farris, a Democrat from Lewiston, said he understands Labrador is wanting to help his partys nominee, but added, I think Congressman Labrador needs to decide if he is running to be a part of a potential Romney administration or to represent Idaho in Congress.
As for the complaint about his work ethic, Labrador recalled Farris admission that hes voted just once in his life for Barack Obama in 2008. When he starts participating in the electoral process, Labrador said, maybe he can start lecturing other people.
Farris, 34, said hes learned his lesson about voting. One person can make a difference, he said, but comparing a citizens right to vote to the obligation of a congressman to represent his constituents is apples and oranges.
Conceded Labrador: It is important. I dont want to diminish anybodys concern in any way.
Dan Popkey: 377-6438, Twitter: @IDS_politics