Next year’s primary election for the 1st District congressional seat will be a real doozy if (or when) Congressman Raul Labrador announces his candidacy for governor.
At least a half a dozen candidates could be involved in that jungle primary election, and it would be anybody’s guess to see who could ride the GOP elephant out of that circus.
One of the early favorites would be House Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane of Nampa. He’s made no secret about his interest in a congressional race, but acknowledges that the timing might not be right.
To the 42-year-old Crane, the title of “Dad” has a much better ring to it than “Congressman.” He wants to be the kind of father who coaches sports teams for his 9-year-old son and 7-year old daughter, as he does now. He has no desire to be the guy who abandons his kids for the workaholic lifestyle of Washington, D.C., where mind-numbing late-night floor sessions are part of the routine. Who can blame him?
A congressional race would be a go if Crane and his wife, Rochenda, can figure how Crane can be “Dad” and “Congressman” at the same time. But with his age, there’s no need to rush. He would be just as viable as a candidate in 10 or 12 years.
Of course, since we’re talking about “timing,” there’s no guarantee that the seat would be available in 10-12 years, which is why he’s giving the matter a lot of thought today. Crane has some positives on his side. He’s popular in his District 13, where he ran unopposed in the last election, and he’d likely fare well overall in Canyon County – the largest county in the 1st District. His father, Ron Crane, is a longtime state treasurer and former Canyon County legislator, so name recognition is not a problem. He’d also be likely to get some generous moral support from Labrador, one of Crane’s close friends.
“My record fits very well with the 1st District; I love the 1st Congressional District,” he said. “So, there are a lot of things that would line up well and make it a natural fit for me. But I’m a father first.”
And that’s a refreshing perspective from a relatively young politician with high aspirations.
I’ve known Crane, and been on cordial terms with him, since he came to the Legislature in 2007, and he has grown a lot. Ten years ago, or even five years ago, I didn’t think he had much potential as a legislative leader, let alone a potential congressional candidate. I saw him as a young legislator in his 30s who was locked into old ways of thinking – say “yes” to lower taxes and “no” to almost anything else that was progressive. He tells me that his core values have not changed, but his scope is much broader, as one might expect from an assistant majority leader.
Ten years ago, I couldn’t imagine Crane having regular briefings with the press corps covering the Legislature. Yet, that’s what he has been doing for the last couple of years, and he’s good at it. Every couple of weeks, he takes his lunch to the statehouse media room and reporters gather to chat on a broad range of issues, including concerns of the Idaho Press Club.
“I relish the back-and-fourth with the press -- absolutely enjoy it,” Crane said. “Reporters can ask tough questions, and I welcome that. For me, I learn by asking questions, which I do a lot in committee meetings, and hearing questions from reporters. They’re asking questions on issues that people need to hear about, and challenging me on my reasons for thinking in a certain way on issues. If reporters don’t agree with me on an issue, at least they know where I’m coming from.”
Accessibility with the media, and sharpened communications skills, serve him well as a House leader and will serve him even better as his political career progresses. Along the way, Crane has learned what some of his colleagues might not know about the Idaho Capitol press corps.
Reporters covering the Legislature are only human. They put their pants on like everybody else … four legs at a time.