Sali Won’t Seek Comeback in Idaho

Posted March 19, 2010 at 1:56pm

Former one-term Rep. Bill Sali (R-Idaho) announced Friday that he will not try to reclaim the seat he lost in 2008 to Rep. Walt Minnick (D).

Sali has kept a low profile since losing last cycle in Idaho’s strongly conservative 1st district, but he resurfaced Friday at the state Capitol in Boise to announce his political plans just hours before the deadline to qualify for the May 25 primary.

Sali instead endorsed state Rep. Raul Labrador, one of five Republicans who had filed for the race as of Friday morning.

Sali endorsed Labrador even though they differ on immigration policy, and the National Republican Congressional Committee is backing Vaughn Ward, a former Senate aide and CIA employee who served in Iraq with the Marine Corps.

Sali praised Ward’s military service but criticized his lack of legislative experience.

“Vaughn has served our country with distinction and we owe him a debt of gratitude for that, as we do all of our veterans,” Sali said, according to the Idaho Statesman. “But I have to tell you, sending Vaughn Ward to Washington, D.C., is a little bit like sending a Boy Scout to Iraq. He doesn’t have any experience casting votes. He doesn’t have experience in the political arena.”

Sali might have been the frontrunner in a GOP primary because of his residual name identification from being a Member and before that a 16-year state legislator. Sali often antagonized his party leadership, which is one reason some GOP officials were nervous about him running again.

Sali was narrowly elected in 2006 after winning a six-way primary with 26 percent of the vote. Minnick unseated Sali in 2008 by a slim 51 percent to 49 percent vote, even as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) carried the district with 62 percent in the presidential balloting.

Minnick has one of the most conservative voting records for a House Democrat and plans to vote “no” on the final health care bill this weekend. He has not drawn a primary challenger.