Idaho’s First District’s GOP congressional race has gotten more crowded with the entry of Nampa Rep. Christy Perry into the battle to replace Congressman Raul Labrador – and a bit more depressing, considering the historically scant voter turnouts in primary elections.
Perry became the sixth candidate to announce for the position, joining three other solid candidates – former Lt. Gov. David Leroy of Boise, former Sen. Russ Fulcher of Meridian and Rep. Luke Malek of Coeur d’Alene. Nick Henderson of Coeur d’Alene and Michael Snyder of Bonners Ferry also are in the race.
If it’s anything like 2006, the trophy will go to the one that gets 25 percent of the vote from a turnout that is likely to be dismal at best. And you wonder why we can’t get quality people in Congress.
On the positive side, Perry is a quality candidate who gives Canyon County some ante in this game. She’s bright, articulate and thoughtful – qualities that make for an effective representative in Congress. She’s also the only woman in the field, which to me is another plus. There’s no shortage of qualified women in Idaho politics – only a shortage of women holding high offices. State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra is the only woman holding one of Idaho’s constitutional offices, and the last woman who held a congressional office was the late Helen Chenoweth.
Can Perry win? It depends on whether she decides to hold onto her legislative seat this winter. The natural tendency for candidates is to have that “white-knuckles” grip on the office instead of campaigning. But that’s a sure ticket to the political unemployment line. People in North Idaho are not impressed with fancy public titles, nor do they care about who takes the lead on foster-care reform, which is one of Perry’s big issues.
But folks in places such as Kellogg, Moscow and Sandpoint do care about seeing candidates at coffee shops, civic functions and town hall meetings. She needs to spend this winter in North Idaho, and not the statehouse – especially since she entered the race so late. Most of Perry’s constituents would understand her seeking a higher office and fighting for a bigger cause; those who don’t probably don’t like her in the first place.
Perry’s decision to run may come as a surprise to some … and may be a surprise to even her. She was approached about running for the office a few months ago, and her answer basically was, “Thanks, but no thanks,” despite having full support of her husband, Matt. She gave a different answer the second time around, so here she is. Part of her motivation was the built-in weaknesses of the other top candidates.
Leroy has strong points, but he’s 70 years old and likely wouldn’t serve for many years. The fact that he doesn’t live in the district is a “non-starter for me,” Perry says. She’s 49, with the hope of building seniority and any influence that comes with it.
With Fulcher, she says, “He wanted to be governor,” and stepped aside to cater to Congressman Raul Labrador’s gubernatorial candidacy. “I was disappointed and felt sorry for him, because he wanted to be governor,” Perry said.
She views Malek as a friend with a similar outlook on issues. But Malek has a reputation of walking away from key votes, “and we all know that,” Perry said. “The job is to vote, and not protect yourself politically. If you do that on one level, then you could do that on another level.”
Perry touts herself as a conservative – one who supports more state control in general and bedrock issues such as state management of public lands. But the question is whether she is “conservative enough” for one of the nation’s most conservative congressional districts. The conservative-based Idaho Freedom Foundation gave her a D- for the last session, and the American Conservative Union rates her in the 50 percent range. Perry says she’s not one to pay attention to such scorecards.
“My conservative framework revolves around faith, family, freedom and firearms,” said Perry, who along with her husband owns and operates a Boise gun shop. “I do not follow any interest group blindly.”
So, who is Christy Perry, and what does she stand for? It’s better for Perry if she gets out of the statehouse zoo during the next session and allows First District voters to see for themselves.