Idaho Rep. Raúl Labrador filed paperwork Tuesday to run for governor and released a statement promising a formal candidacy announcement in the “coming weeks,” an expected development that came as the congressman continues to face harsh national publicity for comments last week that “nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.”
Labrador filed the paperwork in the Secretary of State’s office at mid-morning and issued a statement shortly thereafter.
“Running for governor of the great state of Idaho takes serious preparation. To comply with both the spirit and the letter of the law, I have filed the appropriate campaign finance form required to register as a candidate for governor,” he said. “Idaho needs a proven conservative leader who will stand against the special interests and politicians that have picked the winners and losers in our state Capitol for too long. Idaho needs a strong leader who will make government fair for everyone. Idaho needs a governor who will provide a new vision, a new approach and new leadership.”
Labrador joins fellow Republicans Lt. Gov. Brad Little, real estate developer Tommy Ahlquist, and former State Sen. Russ Fulcher in the race for the GOP nomination to succeed Gov. Butch Otter, who is not running again in 2018. The 2014 Democratic nominee A.J. Balukoff has said he’s still deciding what he will do.
Ahlquist immediately issued a statement on Labrador’s entry saying he looked forward to “a spirited campaign.”
Little’s statement was more pointed, calling out Labrador’s record as a congressman. Labrador is a charter member of the House Freedom Caucus, a conservative group of lawmakers whose minority bloc of votes can steer Republican initiatives rightward but is less successful getting their own proposals through Congress.
“Idahoans, including myself, look forward to hearing from Congressman Labrador about the accomplishments he has made while being in congress for over six years,” Little said.
Fulcher noted that Labrador endorsed his “political courage and fresh ideas” when Fulcher ran for governor in 2014, losing to Otter in the GOP primary.
“He said that I would ‘work to reduce our dependence on Washington, D.C., make the tax code more competitive, reduce regulation, and give Idaho the chance to fulfill its promise’,” Fulcher said. “I suspect he still believes that.”
Labrador’s formal entry, required for him to begin raising and spending money in the race, comes a year before the Republican primary but at a difficult time for the fourth-term congressman. Responding to a questioner at a town hall meeting in Lewiston on Friday, Labrador drew jeers and subsequent national scorn for saying no one died for lack of access to health care. He issued a statement the next day was taken out of context and “wasn’t very elegant.” But rebuttals, condemnations and fact-checks were still coming his way from all quarters Tuesday.
Constituent questions about health care have dominated Labrador’s latest run of town hall meetings around his district, which covers the entire western part of the state from the Canadian border south to the Nevada line. He earlier told a questioner at a town hall in Meridian that he did not consider health care a basic human right.