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Idaho Republicans line up behind Democratic AG candidate

Patti Anne Lodge at a podium endorsing Democrat Tom Arkoosh
James Dawson
/
Boise State Public Radio
Retiring state Sen. Patti Anne Lodge (R-Huston) says Tom Arkoosh will be the first Democrat she's voted for in 66 years of being a Republican.

More than 50 longtime Republican lawmakers and activists are bucking their party by endorsing Tom Arkoosh, the Democratic Party candidate, to become Idaho’s next attorney general.

The lengthy list includes names that have been in Idaho GOP politics for decades, including former Gov. Phil Batt, former Superintendent of Public Instruction Jerry Evans and former First Lady Lori Otter.

Just four current state lawmakers endorsed Arkoosh, though none of them will return to their positions next year. Each of them either declined to run again or lost their primary races to rightwing candidates.

“Tom Arkoosh is the first candidate on the Democratic ticket I have supported in my 66 years of work with the Republican Party,” said retiring state Sen. Patti Anne Lodge (R-Huston).

“This time it’s different. This time we’ve got to have someone who can work with legislators – all legislators from all the different factions – and work with the agencies and the people,” Lodge said.

Arkoosh’s Republican opponent, former Congressman Raul Labrador, is a polarizing figure among the party.

As an anti-establishment politician, Labrador was a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus during the Tea Party wave of the early to mid-2010s.

After four terms in Congress, he lost his bid to become governor in 2018 to Brad Little, who beat him by nearly five points.

Labrador also denies the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election without evidence, something that former Secretary of State Ben Ysursa said makes him unqualified to hold office.

“The AG’s office is not a place for a purveyor of the Big Lie,” Ysursa said.

Labrador has said he will push back against federal mandates and champion conservative beliefs on hot button political issues.

“I will also be a true partner with conservative lawmakers in the Legislature as they work to draft and write good laws that will stand up against the gamesmanship of activist judges,” he said last November in a news release announcing his candidacy.

Labrador’s perceived coziness with far right legislators who have crafted several bills deemed unconstitutional by the current attorney general’s office has several of these cross-party endorsers worried.

“We don’t hire our personal lawyer to give us political advice, but to make sure we operate lawfully and stay out of legal trouble,” said Otter. “That’s what Tom Arkoosh had pledged to do for the State of Idaho.”

But in a statement, Labrador said Arkoosh would only serve entrenched political insiders, noting his opponent didn’t run in May’s primary election. Instead, the Idaho Democratic Party replaced Steve Scanlin, who was unopposed in the race.

“My campaign is not about backroom insiders, I am running to represent the people of Idaho by protecting their freedom, our state’s sovereignty, and our shared Idaho values,” Labrador said.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!