BOISE — Former U.S. Congressman Raúl Labrador on Tuesday was named Ada County’s new representative on the Central District Health, replacing former County Commissioner Diana Lachiondo, who lost a reelection bid in November.
The commission’s two new members, Ryan Davidson and Rod Beck, voted in favor of Labrador’s appointment, while Commissioner Kendra Kenyon abstained.
The appointment is contingent on approval from the health board, a process that could take a few weeks.
Labrador, formerly the Idaho Republican Party chairman and an attorney at Skaug Law firm in Nampa, served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2011 to 2019. He didn’t seek another term in order to run for governor in 2018; he lost to Gov. Brad Little in the Republican primary election. Labrador also served in the Idaho State Legislature from 2006 to 2010.
Kenyon, the sole Democrat on the board with Lachiondo’s departure, said voting for a replacement on the health board so soon was “out of the ordinary.”
“Normally we have a day or two to discuss all voluntary appointments,” Kenyon said, and abstained from the vote.
Davidson said the situation with Labrador was different because he’s replacing Lachiondo on the health board.
“Myself and Commissioner Beck decided we were not the ones to serve in that term,” Davidson said.
Kenyon said she was concerned by the apparent discussions between Beck and Davidson about placing Labrador onto the CDH board.
“That is worrisome to me, and the board needs to discuss issues like this,” she said. “And since this is our first day of business I would just like trying to have that conversation, and don’t think it’s OK for the two of you to make those decisions outside of a quorum like this. The fact it’s been teed up is worrisome to me.”
Beck said he and Davidson had not made any decisions outside of the meeting, but that he had determined Labrador was a good choice.
Beck, who was sworn in Monday, had a conversation with Labrador about the CDH board in December, according to a press release from Ada County.
“At that time, Mr. Labrador expressed interest in the position but did not give Commissioner Beck a final decision,” the release states. “Commissioner Beck did not receive confirmation from Mr. Labrador until the afternoon of Friday, Jan. 8, 2021.”
The press release said Davidson had anticipated serving on the CDH board before the November 2020 election, but learned that people other than commissioners could be appointed to the board. Davidson told then-candidate Beck that he did not want to serve on the board. Davidson also said he did not recall having a recent conversation with Beck about the CDH appointment.
“This is an active process in this unique situation,” Davidson said. “We were approached by Mr. Labrador, and based on his experience and the critical situation we are in right now, it leans toward expediting this appointment.”
Beck served as a Republican Idaho senator in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and Davidson is the former chairman of the Ada County Republican Party.
During Tuesday morning’s meeting, Labrador defended his candidacy.
“I obviously have experience in politics, I have experience in law, I have experience in business, but what I believe qualifies me more than anything for this position is that I am a father, a husband and a grandfather,” Labrador said.Labrador said the people of Ada County needed “common sense” and someone who understood the political, scientific and personal impacts of the decisions made by the Central District Health board.
“Many of these decisions are going to affect people for years,” Labrador said, and said he would ask appropriate questions at CDH meetings.Kenyon said she appreciated Labrador’s willingness to step into the position but wanted to know if he would be willing to stay on the board once the COVID-19 was under control and septic tanks and sexually transmitted diseases were the questions du jour.
Labrador said he understood the scope of the board was larger than pandemic-related decisions, but the latter is what’s driving his interest.
“A board who has never been known to make the magnitude of these decisions has been making decisions that affect everyday lives, that’s why I’m interested in it,” he said.
Labrador, if approved, will likely take a different approach than his predecessor on the health board. As a health board member, Lachiondo supported mask mandates and the district’s decision in June to move Ada County back to a modified Stage 3 of reopening. Her home was the target of a protest last month when the board was set to discuss a modified public health order. She told the Idaho Press in September her priorities in voting on pandemic-related orders were protecting the vulnerable and making sure the health care system did not get overwhelmed.
In his former role as Idaho Republican Party chairman in April, Labrador emphasized the importance of the economy staying open. He sent out an email newsletter titled “Reopen Idaho” a day before Gov. Brad Little’s initial 21-day stay-at-home order ended.