BOISE — Vaughn Ward’s mistakes in the final weeks of the campaign had little to do with Raul Labrador’s win Tuesday in the GOP primary for Idaho’s 1st Congressional District, the winner said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Ward took full responsibility for his campaign’s missteps.
The two spoke with reporters at a Republican Party unity rally on the Statehouse steps in Boise.
“I’m very proud of everything that happened in this race,” Ward said. “I’m not the first one to have staff not perform as expected. But that’s my responsibility.”
Ward had been the frontrunner in the race to unseat Democratic incumbent Rep. Walt Minnick. But a series of slipups, including multiple charges of plagiarism, seemed to doom his campaign.
But Labrador said his campaign was picking up steam even before Ward’s efforts began to falter. He said early voting in Ada County showed him 300 votes ahead in the race.
“I completely disagree with that,” Labrador said about Ward losing the election more than him winning it.
Ward said there may have been things he would have done differently in the campaign if he could run it again. When asked about the recent national media attention given to his campaign announcement that mirrored a speech by then Sen. Barack Obama in 2004, he implied that some of the media is less than objective.
“I don’t care what the national press says,” Ward said. “Some of the mainstream media out there, they have an agenda.”
Labrador said his challenge now is to show 1st District voters that Minnick is not a conservative on all policies.
“My job is to show he’s conservative on some issues but not on all issues,” Labrador said. Labrador said he (Labrador) is pro-life and that Minnick has voted to raise taxes.
Minnick spokesman John Foster said he’s not aware of instances in which the freshman congressman has voted to raise taxes.
“Walt is very much against tax increases in this economy,” Foster said.
Foster also said Minnick believes abortions are a “tragedy” and their numbers should be reduced.
“But (Minnick) believes it’s an intensely personal decision between a woman and her doctor, her family and her pastor,” Foster said.
Rep. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, worked with Labrador in the Idaho House for years and endorsed him in his campaign. He said Wednesday Labrador has “pretty good instincts” and will go against the political grain when he thinks it’s right.
“He’s willing to ask the hard questions,” Thayn said, “but he does it in a respectful way.”
GOP moves on from primary
National Republicans had coached GOP candidate Vaughn Ward and had made him one of their first named recruits, known as “Young Guns.” He also had the backing of former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
On Wednesday, a day after Ward’s defeat to state Rep. Raul Labrador, the GOP wasn’t talking about Ward.
“We look forward to continuing to work with Raul Labrador and are focused on the election in November,” said Paul Lindsay, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Republicans who hope to win 40 or more House seats to seize back control of the House have set their sights on districts like Idaho’s 1st, where Republican presidential candidate John McCain won 62 percent of the vote in 2008. The seat is held by a conservative first-term Democrat, Rep. Walt Minnick.
Ward, a decorated Iraq veteran, was an early front-runner and built a 6-to-1 fundraising edge, but Labrador entered the race and capitalized on Ward’s mistakes.
Allegations of plagiarism surfaced as Ward was caught using issue papers from other campaigns and then, during the final days before the primary, it was discovered he used President Barack Obama’s 2004 speech to the Democratic National Committee to launch his GOP campaign.
“He was the front-runner, here we are, his empire starts crumbling. It’s kind of embarrassing,” said state Sen. Monte Pearce, one of his chamber’s most conservative members. “I saw people at the store, people in the polls, everybody just shaking their heads.”