Former Vice President Joe Biden drew about 250 supporters at a fundraiser in Boise this afternoon, as he brought his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination to a second Idaho stop in two days. Esther Oppenheimer, who hosted the event poolside in her backyard, said afterward, “He talked a lot about what his vision is; bringing people together is a common theme for him.”

“I think he would restore the unity of the country,” she said. “I would like to see that happen again.”

Tickets for the fundraiser started at $100 and rose to $1,000 if the supporter also wanted a photo with the candidate; you can read my full story here at idahopress.com (subscription required), or pick up Wednesday's Idaho Press.

Other Democratic presidential candidates who have made visits to heavily-GOP Idaho so far this year include Julián Castro, the former HUD secretary who spoke to a full house at Boise State University on Feb. 26; and former Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., who held a meet and greet at a private home in Kimberly on March 24; he’s married to a former Buhl resident, April McClain-Delaney.

Biden was accompanied by his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, who introduced him, as she did the evening before at a similar event in the Sun Valley area.

Oppenheimer noted that Jill Biden is an educator who’s also worked for cancer research and prevention and advocated for military families. “She is wonderful, in my view,” Oppenheimer said.

Prior to the Tuesday event, the Biden campaign released a list of 11 current or former Idaho leaders who are endorsing him in the crowded Democratic race for the 2020 presidential nomination; topping the list were two former Idaho Democratic congressmen, Richard Stallings and Larry LaRocco.

LaRocco, who also was a co-host for the Boise event, said, “I’m just really impressed with him and his ability to get things done. There’s just something really basic, though: He’s just a decent and honest guy. He’s a good man. That’s what we need right now is somebody who’s decent and honest and straight-talking, somebody that’s a healer and will unite the country.”

“I’ve seen him in action,” LaRocco added. Back when he was a young aide to the late Idaho Democratic Sen. Frank Church, Church and Biden were close friends and allies.

Biden discussed that connection during his Boise talk, LaRocco said.

When Biden first was elected to the Senate, LaRocco said, he was the youngest person ever elected at just 29; he turned the required minimum age of 30 by the time he took office. But right after he was sworn in, “He had that terrible tragedy where his wife and child were killed in a car accident.”

Church took Biden under his wing, LaRocco said, loaning him staff, offering him emotional support and helping him get started in the Senate. “Biden never forgot the friendship from Frank and Bethine and the outreach from them as a new member,” LaRocco said. “That relationship endured … for a long time.”

LaRocco said he’s actually donated to four Democratic presidential hopefuls, including Biden along with Julian Castro, Amy Klobuchar and Jay Inslee. “I wanted to help all of these candidates get on the debate stage, I wanted to hear what they had to say,” he said. But now, he said, “I just thought it was time to come off the sidelines and move forward with Biden, because I believe he will be a great president — and he can defeat Donald Trump.”

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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