Ringo: Have You Had Enough?

Momentum is a curious concoction. It’s there though for Idaho Democrats, that momentum, a powerful force that builds on itself, gets stronger, and turns conventional wisdom on its head.

The nice thing about our momentum is the “chickens home to roost” timing for Idaho GOP leaders. Even busy Idahoans–exhausted from working two or three jobs to support their families–have noticed that something is off in Idaho. They’ve noticed that off-key tone that Idaho’s GOP leaders hit when they try to distract us from noticing who controls our state–and for how long.

Rep. Shirley Ringo is challenging Raul Labrador at a time when people are noticing that the king has no clothes.

This Lewiston Tribune writer has a good sense that something’s happening. He’s right about how simple the message is too:

“Twenty years of Republican rule has left Idaho spiraling into a low-wage economy. Have you had enough?”


An unabashed Democrat can shake things up

BY Marty Trillhasse of The Lewiston Tribune
Posted: Sunday, August 25, 2013

If you talk to a national handicapper such as political wonk Charlie Cook, state Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, is wasting her time challenging Congressman Raul Labrador, R-Idaho.

But you’ve not seen this kind of political dynamic in Idaho for some time.

For the sake of argument, consider:

Experience – Ringo may be the most tenured Idaho candidate for Congress since then Idaho House Speaker Mike Simpson embarked on his congressional career 15 years ago. She has served seven terms in the Legislature – and has the enlightening experience of losing a re-election campaign only to come back and win the next time. Perched on the budget-writing and Joint Legislative Oversight committees, Ringo knows where the bodies are buried.

Message – Ringo is something rare in Idaho politics – an unashamed Democrat. Count the list of candidates who have run away from that label. Whether it was former Congressman Walt Minnick or the party’s 2010 gubernatorial nominee Keith Allred, it hasn’t worked. The base of true believers sit on their hands while moderate Republicans stay loyal to the GOP.

So when she’s accused of being a tax-and-spend liberal, Ringo could just say something Idahoans haven’t heard for a generation: It’s the politically connected who aren’t paying taxes while your children’s education has been short-changed. Twenty years of Republican rule has left Idaho spiraling into a low-wage economy. Have you had enough?

Time – Going up against a Republican incumbent means being outspent. But Ringo has something almost as good as money – 14 months to build a one-on-one following in every hamlet and neighborhood of Idaho’s 1st Congressional District.
Tactics – If her interview with the Tribune’s William L. Spence was any indication, Ringo intends to make Labrador the poster child for the Tea Party intransigence that has paralyzed the government. Ringo can call attention to Labrador’s votes against highway funding, the farm bill, Secure Rural Schools and Payment in Lieu of Taxes. Labrador supports shutting down the government to block Obamacare, so if that shutdown happens, he now owns it.

She’ll remind the folks at home Labrador has become a creature of Washington, D.C., who seems to care more about keeping the ultraconservative Club for Growth and “Meet the Press” host David Gregory happy than promoting the interest of his own constituents.

Labrador himself – Last year, Labrador had everything going his way. A Democratic incumbent president vastly unpopular with Idaho voters at the top of the ticket and, in neophyte Jimmy Farris, an opponent who was little more than a Democratic placeholder. Labrador’s margin was 63 percent, which fell behind Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s 64.5 percent statewide and Simpson’s 65 percent in the 2nd Congressional District, where the challenger was more credible.

Three years ago, when he ousted Minnick, Labrador carried just 51 percent – and that was in a nationalized election with the GOP wind at his back.

There are other chinks in Labrador’s armor: A recent history of erratic outbursts, most notably against columnist Chris Carlson, his flirtation with challenging Gov. C.L. (Butch) Otter and then refusing to endorse the governor; the widely held perception he is working to oust Simpson in next spring’s GOP primary election; and his efforts to defeat mainstream former Idaho GOP Chairman Kirk Sullivan.

How many disgruntled Republicans will deliver back-channel support to Ringo – in the form of opposition research, myriad subtle favors or tips – or even a protest vote against Labrador and for her?

Certainly some.

An upset in the making?

Probably not.

A cakewalk for Labrador?

Don’t count on it. – M.T.

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