Former U.S. Rep. Richard Stallings has a no-nonsense message of truth, a reality check for Idahoans who have developed very low expectations for our Congressional delegation.
“Stallings, a history professor, has built his campaign around a stark claim: “The current Congress is the worst in history. This is the worst example of American democracy.”
Stallings can give Idahoans that same powerful voice in the Congress. We don’t need to settle for “Best of the Worst.” Stallings is the best of the best.
This story appeared last weekend in the Idaho Falls Post-Register (paysite):
Stallings pins upset hope to unpopular Congress
August 22, 2014
Richard Stallings wants his old job back.
He’s represented Idaho’s Second Congressional District before, but even supporters acknowledge he has a tough row to hoe in this year’s challenge to Rep. Mike Simpson.
Stallings is swinging for the fences, attacking not only Simpson’s stands on policy, but also his motives.
The Democrat calls opposition to raising the minimum wage “an act of cruelty,” accuses Congress of “keeping people in the shadows” by not passing an immigration reform package and considers refusing to allow students to refinance their loans an effort to “punish” them.
Stallings, a history professor, has built his campaign around a stark claim: “The current Congress is the worst in history. This is the worst example of American democracy.”
He lays gridlock at the feet of Republican leadership.
“There is no leadership of the Republican Party,” Stallings said. “There is the Ted Cruz party, the Rand Paul party, perhaps the John Boehner party. But there is no national Republican Party. They have no plan. They have no direction.”
Simpson’s camp defended his record.
“Mike has a proven record of delivering results for Idaho,” spokeswoman Sarah Nelson said. “Idahoans have seen Mike vote over 50 times against Obamacare, co-sponsor the balanced budget amendment to end out-of-control government spending, de-list the wolves, protect Idaho’s water from the Obama Administration, support the INL and fight to protect farmer and ranchers from the overreach of the EPA.”
Stallings, 73, held the seat from 1984 until 1992, when he made an failed run for the Senate. He has attempted one previous comeback, facing Simpson during his initial run in 1998. Stallings lost to Simpson by an 8 percent margin. It is the closest anyone since has come to beating the 16-year incumbent.
Supporters, such as Bonneville County Democratic Party chairman Fernando Sandoval, acknowledge Stallings is making his comeback bid in a politically hostile district.
“It’s an uphill battle,” Sandoval said. “That’s just how it is here in Idaho running as a Democrat. But the timing is pretty good, I think.”
Good timing, Sandoval said, because of Congress’s near-record low approval ratings — 13 percent this month, up from 9 percent in November, according to Gallup.
David Adler, a political scientist and director of the Andrus Center for Public Policy, said the odds are stacked against Stallings.
“It’s always an uphill fight for a Democrat in Idaho, but Congressman Stallings is the best choice that the Democrats could make to run against Mike Simpson because of his name recognition and his experience in Congress,” Adler said. “He commands respect from people on both sides of the aisle.”
Bert Marley, a long-time Democratic lawmaker from Pocatello and candidate for lieutenant governor, said Stallings’ time in the House was markedly different, even under the conservative presidency of Ronald Reagan.
“You didn’t see the kind of lines being drawn: we’re not going to let anything happen, or we’re going to have it our way or no way,” he said.
But Adler said negative views of Congress do not always translate into negative views of congressmen.
“For a long period of time, Americans have strongly criticized the institution of Congress, but they often express admiration and respect for their own member of Congress,” Adler said.
Stallings pointed to several major achievements from his time in office, including sponsoring 1987 legislation establishing a secondary market for agricultural land.
Previously, he said, local banks made mortgage loans to farmers who bought land, but they quickly took on the maximum number of loans they safely could. The secondary market, called “Farmer Mac,” allows small banks to sell such loans to servicing companies, freeing up funds to make more loans.
Stallings also fought for parity in the subsidies given to barley growers, who previously had been given less government support than wheat farmers. He also voted against giving aid to a right-wing rebel group in Nicaragua known as the Contras, and against entering the first Gulf War.
Stallings made his reputation as a conservative “Blue Dog” Democrat, an outlook he said he retains. He supports policies that will allow disadvantaged people to help themselves.
“We have some social responsibility to be our brother’s keeper, so to speak. That doesn’t mean we have to take care of them from birth to death,” he said. “I’m a strong believer in second chances. I’m not a believer in a welfare state where people are given everything they need.”
Marley said what impressed him most about Stallings is what he did after he lost his House seat.
Unlike many who move from Capitol Hill to K Street to accept jobs as lobbyists, Marley said, Stallings went back to Pocatello where he served on the City Council from 2001 to 2007.
Stallings said he hopes to reach groups he believes the Republican Party is unable to reach: women, youth, the elderly and Hispanics.
“If he can rally Latinos to support him and to support immigration reform, I think he has a shot,” Sandoval said.
Sandoval, who studied state politics under Stallings at Idaho State University, said Stallings’ best chances are to link Simpson to congressional inaction.
“If he can get the message out there that these guys really aren’t doing anything, he has a shot,” he said.
Stallings said that approach is supported by the Republican Party’s own after-action reports following the re-election of President Barack Obama.
“They have to — as their own autopsies said — be more inclusive,” Stallings said. “And that’s not happening. They’re becoming less embracing.”
The child refugee crisis and the conservative reaction to it, Stallings said, will push Latinos in his direction.
“Their first reaction was to throw them out, send them home, which to many of them would consign them to death or the sex slave trade,” Stallings said. “That is not the party of the Statue of Liberty.”