Mitchell: ‘Career politician’ Risch must go

The Boise Democrat says he can help deliver a government that works.

dpopkey@idahostatesman.comJanuary 15, 2014 

0115 local dem senate1

Boise lawyer Nels Mitchell announces his candidacy for the U.S. Senate to challenge incumbent Sen. Jim Risch during a news conference Tuesday Jan. 14, 2014 at the Boise Depot in Boise.

DARIN OSWALD — doswald@idahostatesman.com Buy Photo

  • ABOUT NELS MITCHELL

    Born: July 4, 1953, in Seattle. Legal name is Briane Nelson Mitchell.

    Moved: To Idaho in 1968. Graduated from Boise High School, where he was student body president.

    Higher Education: Bachelor’s from Columbia University, 1975; law degree, University of Idaho, 1978.

    Professional:

    - Law clerk to Idaho-based U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge J. Blaine Anderson, 1978-80.

    - Private practice in California and New York, 1980-2003, ending as a partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.

    - U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Pacific Region, based in Los Angeles. Associate regional director, 2004-2006, regional trial counsel, 2006-07.

    - Partner, Mauk & Burgoyne, Boise, 2009-2014.

    - Adjunct instructor, University of Idaho College of Law, 2004-present.

    Family: Married two years to Mary Kimmel, attorney at the Office of the United States Trustee, Boise. First marriage, to Suzi Harmatz, a San Diego County, Calif., businesswoman, ended in divorce in 2007 after 25 years. Daughters: Brianne, a lawyer in New York, and Brittany, a second-year student at the University of Minnesota Law School. Mother: Franky, 91, lives in Boise; has two brothers.

First-time candidate Nels Mitchell says he agreed to a long-shot challenge to GOP Sen. Jim Risch after the October government shutdown.

Mitchell said voters are “tired of career politicians, they’re tired of the gridlock in Washington, they’re tired of politicians serving only their own interest and doing nothing to help Idaho. They don’t want their government shut down, they want their government to work.”

Among the Democrats who recruited Mitchell were former U.S. Attorney Betty Richardson, now Mitchell’s campaign manager, and former four-term Democratic Gov. Cecil Andrus.

Andrus acknowledged that unseating Risch, who won his first term by a 26-percentage point margin in 2008, will be tough because of the GOP advantages of money, name identity and organization.

But Andrus said his own election as governor in 1970 and Risch’s defeat in the Idaho Senate in 1988 are proof that it’s possible. “They have got to be much more aggressive in pointing out why a change is needed,” Andrus said. “When I was elected in 1970, people said, ‘Cecil who? He doesn’t have a prayer.’ But I was elected.”

In his announcement Tuesday at the Boise Depot, Mitchell hammered Risch, saying he has neglected ordinary Idahoans while enjoying the social perks of Washington, D.C., and foreign travels as a member of the Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees.

“He’s been much too busy taking junkets and going to the theater to watch out for jobs back home,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell criticized Risch’s opposition to Idaho GOP Sen. Mike Crapo’s Violence Against Women Act and GOP Rep. Mike Simpson’s Boulder White-Clouds wilderness bill. He also blasted Risch’s vote to cut spending for the Idaho National Lab, saying he would work with Crapo and Simpson and not “align myself with the extremists like (Texas Sen.) Ted Cruz.”

A gun owner since he was 12, Mitchell said he supports the Second Amendment and holds a lifetime Idaho hunting and fishing license.

The Risch campaign issued a statement online reminding voters that electing Mitchell would put him in league with Democrats deeply unpopular in one of the most Republican states.

“Sen. Risch has been working diligently for over five years to reduce the size of the federal government and its intrusion into the daily lives of Idaho citizens,” said the Risch website. “This year Idahoans will once again have a clear choice between Sen. Risch’s conservative philosophies or another Democrat who will go to Washington to grow the government and help (Sen.) Harry Reid and (Rep.) Nancy Pelosi push Obama’s far-left agenda.”

Risch, 70, is among Idaho’s most successful politicians. Raised in Milwaukee, he moved to Idaho to attend the University of Idaho. Since being elected Ada County prosecutor in 1970, he has held elected office for all but eight years. He spent 22 years in the Idaho Senate, was lieutenant governor for five years and five months, and succeeded to the governorship in 2006, serving seven months.

Mitchell, 60, was born in Seattle and raised in Boise. He graduated from the University of Idaho and spent 27 years practicing in California and New York.

He represented corporate clients in industries including telephone, technology, pharmaceuticals, investment banks and brokers, accounting, real estate, defense, manufacturing, candy and pet food.

Mitchell returned to Boise in 2008 and is ending his partnership at the Boise firm of Mauk & Burgoyne to campaign full time.

Taking Andrus’ advice to attack, he blamed Risch for Idaho’s low-wage economy. “Someone has not been minding the store and that someone is Jim Risch,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said he would serve a single six-year term if elected.

He was introduced Tuesday by former Democratic state Sen. Mike Burkett, one of just two candidates to defeat Risch. Burkett unseated the then-Senate president pro tem in 1988 in the most expensive race in the history of the Legislature, with significant help from Andrus.

“There are those who will say that Risch can’t be beat,” Burkett said. “He’s a Republican, it’s a red state, he’s got all that money, he’s an incumbent. Folks back in 1988 said that. It wasn’t true.”

Burkett said Mitchell would make compromises in the tradition of celebrated Idaho Republican Sens. William Borah, Len Jordan and Jim McClure.

Mitchell himself played the Republican icon card, recalling Ronald Reagan’s description of America as “that bright, shining city on a hill.”

“Let me tell you that we still shine,” Mitchell said. “All we need to do is remove the rust and the gridlock and we will once again be a beacon for the world.”

Dan Popkey: 377-6438, Twitter: @IDS_politics

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