Labrador's exit speech (copy)

Former U.S. Rep. Raúl Labrador was appointed to a vacant seat on Central District Health’s board last week, but now, the Ada County Commission will consider another candidate, too.

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After appointing former U.S. Rep. Raúl Labrador to the Central District Health board last week, the Ada County Commission will reconsider its choice, and will include infectious disease expert Dr. Sky Blue in the running for the health board’s open seat.

The Idaho Statesman first reported Blue’s candidacy, saying Kendra Kenyon — the lone Democrat on the commission — asked Blue to enter his name for consideration.

“I certainly want to be able to help out,” Blue told the Statesman. “I would just as soon we didn’t have a pandemic, and I don’t think anybody really wants to have to make the decisions … but it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to (make them).”

A careerlong epidemiologist, Blue is a specialist in HIV/AIDS treatment; he directs an area HIV clinic operated by the Family Practice Residency of Idaho, and earlier in his career, he was an assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Geriatrics at the University of Utah after completing a fellowship at “the U” with the same focus.

Labrador, an attorney at Skaug Law in Nampa, served in the Idaho Legislature from 2006 to 2010, in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2011 to 2019, and as the Idaho Republican Party chairman from 2019 to 2020.

The selected appointee will fill the seat vacated by Democrat Diana Lachiondo, who lost a reelection bid to the Ada County Commission last fall, freeing up the seat she held on the CDH board. Lachiando voted in favor of mask mandates and vocally backed coronavirus restrictions while in office, though some expect Labrador would resist pandemic-related regulations if appointed, after he pushed for Gov. Brad Little to reopen Idaho’s economy at the end of Little’s stay-at-home order last spring and into the summer.

“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 in defending his appointment last week.

In addition to drawing Kenyon’s support, Blue needs to pull the vote of either Rod Beck or Ryan Davidson, the commission’s two new Republican members who voted in favor of appointing Labrador to the health board. After Beck and Davidson privately discussed Labrador’s appointment ahead of last week’s meeting, Kenyon raised concern the two violated open meeting laws. A special prosecutor is now set to investigate potential violations, the Idaho Press reported.

Tommy Ahlquist, a former emergency room physician and current Ball Ventures Ahlquist CEO, took to Twitter to support Blue. After a failed run against both Little and Labrador in 2018’s Republican gubernatorial primary, Ahlquist has split with some GOP members on select issues, particularly those related to the pandemic.

“I am thrilled that Idaho’s leading infectious disease doctor, Sky Blue MD, has agreed to submit his name for the vacant CDH seat,” Ahlquist wrote. “Dr. Blue is an incredible physician & specialist in COVID diagnosis & treatment. Join me by sharing this news & calling your Ada Co. Commissioners.”

While Labrador was initially appointed to the open seat, his selection hadn’t yet been approved by the CDH board when the Ada commission announced, via its meeting agenda, that another candidate would be considered.

The commission will meet at 10 a.m. Tuesday to reconsider its appointment.

Blake Jones covers Kuna and Meridian for the Idaho Press. You can reach him at bjones@idahopress.com and follow him on Twitter @jonesblakej.

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