If Congressman Raul Labrador is elected next year as Idaho’s next governor, then you can count on this: The Idaho Freedom Foundation will emerge as the most influential lobbying organization in the Statehouse.
That would be a good thing, or a nightmare – depending on your political outlook. The possibility is there. Labrador is a free-market conservative who lives and breathes the concept of limited government, as does Wayne Hoffman’s freedom foundation. The two will line up well on most policy issues. Hoffman darn near could write Labrador’s State of the State speech.
The freedom foundation will continue to have influence, and a generous conservative following, regardless of who wins the governor’s race. Boise developer Tommy Ahlquist has made a hit with conservatives through his call to cut state spending by $100 million within his first 100 days of office. Those on the far right are more concerned about Lt. Gov. Brad Little and his ties with the “liberal” Gov. Butch Otter. However, conservatives do like his pledge to repeal the sales tax on groceries, which Otter vetoed.
There is no conservative anxiety attached to Labrador. Sen. Steve Vick of Dalton Gardens, who has not issued an endorsement in the race, offers a fair perspective of the race.
“We don’t know how Tommy will govern. You can say almost anything if you don’t have a record,” Vick says. “Raul is probably the most conservative of the three. I think he will do very well here – one, because this is part of his congressional district and, two, because this is a pretty conservative area. As for Brad, I think he struggles by being seen as too much like Butch Otter.”
Three years ago, Otter failed to carry Kootenai County against a little-known challenger in the gubernatorial primary, and it’s difficult to imagine Little doing any better. Although Vick has not officially taken sides, other leading conservatives have – in favor of Labrador.
“In Idaho politics, the word ‘conservative’ is used in almost every campaign on the Republican side,” said Rep. Ron Nate of Rexburg. “What we find all too often is that, once elected, they don’t match what’s advertised. But Raul Labrador is one who has matched his conservative advertising with conservative actions.”
Rep. Heather Scott of Blanchard refers to Labrador as a “true conservative,” if not the only true Republican in the field.
“I am concerned about Democrats in disguise running as Republicans – not just in the governor’s race, but overall,” she said. “Just because there’s an ‘R’ by your name doesn’t mean you’re a Republican or believe in the Republican principles of limited government.”
As Scott sees next year’s elections, “Idahoans have a huge opportunity to change the direction of what government has been … and have a government that works from the bottom-up instead of the top-down.”
The kind of fundamental changes Scott talks about are generally what the freedom foundation has been fighting for over the last decade. Hoffman’s group has made waves with its “freedom index,” which grades legislators on a long list of “free-market” issues. The scorecard is cheered by conservatives who grade well, and loathed by those who don’t. Either way, lawmakers are paying attention. Nate scored 100 percent on the freedom index, the only legislator to record a perfect score, and Scott rated at 99.3 percent.
“The freedom foundation, to me, has been a great resource,” Nate said. “They do solid research to evaluate legislation. Unlike other groups in the Capitol, they don’t get more profit for themselves by getting bills passed. They are working for the citizens, providing valuable information for them and their legislators.”
The executive branch is hardly a fan of Hoffman, or his organization. But that could change dramatically under a Labrador administration – which would attempt to squash any form of liberal social engineering in the name of “freedom” and “liberty.”
Some legislators will shudder at the thought of such massive changes. But others, such as Scott and Nate, would hail the “new look” for state government.
Ultimately, as Scott correctly points out, the power does not rest with legislators and lobbyists. “All power and influence is with the citizens.”
The good news for Labrador is that the folks on Scott’s side of the political fence are the ones who are most likely to vote in a primary election.