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For the week of April 3 - 9 , 2002

  News

Roark launches Democratic bid for attorney general


BOISE (AP) Keith Roark, a former Blaine County prosecutor and mayor of Hailey, touted his legal and professional background March 26 in officially announcing his Democratic campaign for Idaho attorney general.

Meanwhile Republican Attorney General Al Lance announced March 27 that he will not seek a third term, but he declined to discuss his future plans amid indications that a federal appointment was looming.

"There is no announcement at this time," Lance said after endorsing his chief of staff, Lawrence Wasden, to succeed him.

But sources close to both the Republican Party and the congressional delegation said an announcement of Lance's appointment to some judicial position related to the military could be made soon. They declined to be more specific for fear it would undermine Lance's standing.

Last summer, the 52-year-old former national commander of the American Legion had reportedly been in line for appointment to either the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims or the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. Both are 15-year terms.

In late August, Congressman Michael Simpson, a member of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, said he had been advised by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi several weeks earlier that Lance's appointment was imminent.

But then three weeks later, terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and those matters took a back seat.

Neither Simpson nor spokesmen for the state's two Republican U.S. senators would discuss Lance's status last week.

Roark, meanwhile, is starting to get busy on the campaign trail.

He said the nation's war against terrorism will continue to require the state's chief legal officer and all Idaho residents "time and again to balance the needs of homeland security with the imperative of preserving our precious civil liberties."

Roark, 52, is the only Democrat seeking the office held by Lance for two terms.

Wasden, Lance's chief of staff, entered the race to replace his boss on Monday, maintaining that his experience sets him apart from the others who want to be Idaho's top lawyer. Canyon County Commission Chairman Todd Lakey also is vying for the Republican nomination.

Roark said Republican domination of Idaho politics was partly the Democratic Party's fault, blaming "the insensitivity of our national party leaders toward Idaho voters and their heartfelt concerns.

"But it has also happened in large measure because Idaho voters have in recent years stopped looking beyond party labels to the individual qualifications of candidates for public office."

He cited the simultaneous election in 1974 of Democrats Frank Church and Cecil Andrus and Republicans Steve Symms and George Hansen, and said it was unfortunate that voters too often now choose straight party tickets.

If voters do not look beyond party labels to the merit of each individual candidate, candidates with merit will no longer even seek public office," Roark said.

 


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.