Republicans gather in Hailey
Sens. Craig, Crapo stump for local candidates
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Larry Craig strike a pose with Craig?s granddaughter, Emily Leanne Houck. Photo by David N. Seelig
Local Republican candidates who are running in contested races received a boost Wednesday afternoon from some of Idaho?s most prominent political figures.
Republican Sens. Larry Craig and Mike Crapo pulled into the Blaine County Republicans headquarters above Shorty?s in Hailey as one of the stops the politicians made during a 12-day, statewide political tour, which ended Thursday.
Incumbent state Rep. Tim Ridinger, R-Shoshone, and incumbent Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling, R-Hailey, joined the senators for the reception, which drew about two dozen local residents and politicos.
?For Blaine County to give up Walt?s experience would be a tragedy at best,? Craig said.
Femling, a four-term sheriff, faces Hailey police officer Jeff Gunter, a Democrat. Ridinger, a 10-year Statehouse veteran, faces Gooding tree farmer and retired teacher Donna Pence, a Democrat, the District 25 race for Seat B.
?Tim (Ridinger) is a great, great legislator and needs to be returned to that job,? Crapo said.
The senators said the nearly 3,000-mile road trip was an excellent opportunity to meet with their constituents throughout the state.
?Last time I looked, there were 203 cities in Idaho. Now we haven?t hit all of them, but we?re close,? Crapo, who is running unopposed in this fall?s election, said. ?In every community we?ve been to, we?ve been well received. We?ve had great crowds and great support.?
Crapo said the groundswell of interest in the coming election is an indication that voter turnout should be excellent.
Issues foremost on people?s minds include Iraq, terrorism, the mounting deficit, global trade, energy and rising fuel prices.
The politicians also used the opportunity to drum up support for President George W. Bush.
?We in this country are voting in a very, very divided way. This presidential election appears to be very close,? Crapo said, adding that Bush appears to be pulling ahead in polls. ?But we don?t take that for granted.?
The senators urged Idahoans to work for increased support for Bush. They urged Blaine County?the only county to vote for Al Gore in 2000?to try to give bush the win this time around.
?It is true. Bush is going to win in Idaho. If he didn?t win in Idaho, he?s not going to win the election,? Crapo said.
But he urged Idaho citizens to push for a large margin of victory for the president.
Craig, like Crapo, advocated for local political control and stressed the roll the state legislature plays.
The state legislature, he said, is the ?true laboratory? of policy making. ?Obviously at the federal level, we have our hands full, and we shouldn?t be dabbling at the local level.?