Larry Craig

Craig's decision sets stage for wide-open GOP primary

Sen. Larry Craig's decision to stay in office until the end of his term could spark a wide-open campaign to fill the seat.

Gov. Butch Otter had hoped to give Idaho a 15-month jump on Senate seniority, but unless Craig changes his mind again, there will not be an incumbent going into the Republican primary next year.

Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, who was considered one of the top contenders to replace Craig, said Thursday he will announce his intentions toward Craig's seat next week. In April, Risch said there was a "reasonable likelihood" he would run if Craig did not.

The other major contender for Otter's nod, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, had no comment Thursday.

At least 29 other Idahoans, both well-known and less so, expressed an interest in Craig's seat when Otter was considering replacements.

Former Democratic Congressman Richard Stallings,  chairman of the Idaho Democratic Party, said Craig's decision to remain in office will keep Craig and Idaho popular fodder for late-night comedians.

"This is bad news for Idaho because the embarrassment is going to be ongoing," said Stallings, who served in the House with Craig from 1985-1990.

But politically, it increases the chances for Idaho Democrats across the board, especially with an open Senate seat.

"It's good news for Democrats because the governor will not be able to replace him with someone with a head start and it will throw the Republicans into a primary that will be divisive," Stallings said.

Former Democratic Congressman Larry LaRocco has been running for the seat for six months and has raised nearly $200,000 so far, he said. He was pleased with Craig's decision.

"This gives Idahoans a true choice other than a coronation," LaRocco said.

Rocky Barker: 377-6484