Labrador goes on defensive after attack ads target record
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho’s U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador on Thursday disputed recent attacks by a political action committee that the Republican lawmaker has accomplished nothing during his time in Congress.
A visibly agitated Labrador went on the defensive while responding to a television ad funded by the Idaho First PAC — a group that supports Labrador’s opponent Tommy Ahlquist, a Boise businessman.
“I am proud of my record and I will always stand by my record,” Labrador said at a press conference inside the Idaho Capitol in Boise. “My reputation, my character and my integrity are under attack and I won’t stand idly by.”
Labrador, Ahlquist and Lt. Gov. Brad Little are the top three Republican candidates vying for the open gubernatorial seat in the upcoming May primary election. The fight over the open seat is expected to be one of the most competitive races in 2018 now that Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has said he won’t seek re-election for a fourth term.
The Idaho First PAC — whose donors include Ahlquist’s father — is running an ad that says Labrador has sponsored “zero bills that have become law.” The ad does not mention Little.
The ad goes on to say that Labrador has been an ineffective lawmaker because he has missed more votes than the average congressman.
“The only things he’s proven is that Idaho can’t trust him,” the ad states.
Labrador countered Thursday that he has authored and sponsored three bills that became law: a grazing reform proposal, transferring 31 acres from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to Idaho County for a shooting range, as well as a bill that allows veterans to reassign their education benefits to a surviving child or spouse when the original beneficiary dies.
Two of those bills, the grazing reform and shooting range, Labrador ultimately voted against in 2014 because they were included in a larger bill that he opposed.
“I voted against the larger bill, but that’s not the point,” Labrador said. “The point is the attack and the lies being promoted by Tommy and his dad.”
An official with Idaho First PAC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Unable to defend his record, it looks like Congressman Labrador is becoming unhinged,” said David Johnston, Ahlquist’s campaign manager.
Meanwhile, Labrador reiterated previous arguments that the majority of the votes he missed last year were primarily due to a family emergency when his son was in the hospital for a heart condition.
“What is most shameful is that Tommy and his campaign know that the number of votes that I have missed this term was because my youngest son had a heart condition and he had a complication that ended up with him in the (intensive care unit),” Labrador said. “I missed nearly two weeks of votes because of this. Shame on you Tommy.”
According to govtrack.us, Labrador has missed 234 roll call votes since he assumed congressional office in 2011, or about 4.7 percent of all votes he’s cast as a congressman. The site ranks Labrador slightly higher than other House members who have missed votes.
Ahlquist, who is running for political office for the first time, is an emergency room doctor turned developer. His campaign boasted earlier this year that with fundraising $1.7 million in 2017, Ahlquist has raised more cash in a year than any gubernatorial race in Idaho history.
Campaign finance disclosure reports posted on the secretary of state’s website show Idaho First collected a total of $261,000 in 2017.
Labrador has struggled to compete with the cash flow, having just $638,000 available in the bank at the end of 2017.