Printed on: July 24, 2013

Ignore us... please

A spirited debate is taking place in the Republican Party primary race for Idaho's Second Congressional District seat.

Not between the candidates. Incumbent Mike Simpson is busy trying to gut the Environmental Protection Agency and thwart the Obama Administration's plans to combat climate change. Challenger Bryan Smith has his Idaho Falls law practice to oversee and, assuming his friends and relatives are tapped out, campaign donations to solicit.

Not between the competing wings of the Idaho Republican Party. The moderate business types behind Simpson and tea party budget absolutists that favor Smith have not yet begun to fight.

No, this debate features a defeated GOP congressman from Indiana and a retired GOP congressman from Ohio and the special interests they represent.

The Hoosier is Chris Chocola, president of the anti-tax group Club for Growth. Chocola has vowed that his well-heeled followers will spend whatever it takes to mount Simpson's scalp on the wall of its headquarters.

In a July 21 column for the Twin Falls Times-News, Chocola spent about 1,000 words detailing Simpson's alleged sins. Those include attempting to address the deficit through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases; making sure poor kids have access to health care; taking money from political action committees (never mind that Club for Growth donates millions to its favorites, including $1.1 million to the lamentable one-term Idaho Congressman Bill Sali); and earning support from teachers.

Also, as depicted by the Idaho Statesman's Dan Popkey, Chocola, who was only saved from becoming the "career politician" he accuses Simpson of being by a 2006 defeat, issued a 10-page news release that hit on topics important to Idahoans. Those included Simpson's friendship with House Speaker John Boehner and his affinity for cigarettes and the rock band the Rolling Stones.

The defense of Simpson came from a Buckeye named Steve LaTourette. In his July 23 response to Chocola in the Times-News, this congressman-turned-lobbyist vowed his group, Main Street Advocacy, will match the Club for Growth "dollar for dollar" in Idaho.

Why? "The Club for Growth specializes in smear campaigns ... and rely on their wealthy donors to ... bully Republicans in Congress," LaTourette wrote.

Actually that sounds about right. But still, it's too bad this debate – so far, at least – is being conducted by two guys who likely have no idea Salmon is a fish, river and small town all at the same time.

Chocola, in his Times-News piece, told Idahoans, repeatedly, how they should think and vote. LaTourette at least had the good sense to limit his criticisms to the Club for Growth while encouraging Idahoans to think for themselves.

The truth, however, is this: Thinking for ourselves would be a lot easier if the Buckeyes and Hoosiers -- and all the special interest cash at their disposal -- returned to their usual, non-election season treatment of Idaho. When there's nothing to be gained, the Chocolas and LaTourettes of this world ignore us like we're not even here.

Here's guessing the vast majority of folks who actually will vote in this election are just fine with that.

Corey Taule