In the summer of 2006, there were strange rumblings about a potential Democratic House pick up in the most unlikely of places:"Freakin' Idaho!" as kos said. It was happening because of Larry Grant, a former Micron executive and a good Democrat who decided that this seat would not go uncontested.
Grant had originally volunteered to be the candidate recruiter for the open seat. He didn't want to run, but he also couldn't scare up anyone willing to put themselves on the line to run what was going to be a very, very difficult race. So Grant decided to do it himself. And did it so well that the Club for Growth and the Republican party had to pour money into the race to try to keep it. In Idaho. They even sent Dick Cheney in at the last minute. They did retain the seat, but with just a five-point margin, the closest election Idaho has seen for some time.
Larry Grant softened that seat up. He proved that a Democrat could run strong in Idaho, and with the stars lining up and enough money, which he didn't have in 2006, could win. But having proved that it could be done was the trick, and it attracted challengers in Idaho's Democratic primary, something that Idaho Democrats rejoiced over. It's challenging enough in Idaho to find one Democrat willing to run, and at the beginning of the cycle, we had three.
But it comes back to that money issue. Democrats have an extremely high profile race for the Idaho Senate seat that Larry Craig is, finally, abandoning. Larry LaRocco is running strong for that seat, and is a more than credible candidate. But that race is eating up some Idaho resources that make fundraising for the House seat a challenge. One of the challengers, Walt Minnick, has the benefit of having been an active fundraiser, and funder, for the party for over a decade. With the party establishment behind him, he's built a formidable war chest.
Larry Grant decided to do what was best for the party.
Saying "there isn’t ten cents of difference" between his views and Minnick’s, Grant pledged to stand "shoulder to shoulder" with Minnick to help beat Republican Congressman Bill Sali.
"My campaign has never been about personal ambition," said Grant.
"An opportunity for Democrats like this doesn’t come along very often. I don’t want to be standing here in November asking ‘what did we do wrong?’ The objective is to beat Bill Sali."
His grace in stepping down was matched by Minnick.
Walt Minnick said, "What Larry is doing is truly extraordinary. He’s put his desire to serve in federal office on hold temporarily to do something greater – to put the Democratic party and the people of Idaho first, to remove Bill Sali from office."
Calling Sali "the most embarrassing and ineffective Congressman we’ve ever had" Minnick gave Grant credit for being "the foremost public spokesman to reveal Bill Sali’s voting record, which is abysmal."...
Minnick said Grant’s "selfless act" was the most important thing that could be done, and that Grant’s "superb" campaign organization has opened doors for a Democrat to win.
I've heard from numerous Idaho friends that immediately following the press conference, Grant, Minnick and Andrus moved the show to a downtown Boise coffee shop, where they plotted together on where the race goes from here.
My loyalties in this race were with Grant. I met Larry in the fall of 2006, when I was on my western races road trip. I've been in contact with him since, and have grown to respect and like him more and more. While I'm disappointed, this decision on his part makes sense for Idaho and makes sense for the race. Now that it's uncontested, the DCCC can and will come in to help Minnick. And Minnick is a very solid progressive with a strong track record in a key issue for Idaho, conservation. He's got a very strong campaign team in place. A united front behind Minnick in Idaho will at the very least make the NRCC and the Republican party have to spend a lot of money to defend this seat, money that they just don't have this cycle.
The groundwork laid by Larry Grant, with help from the netroots and Idaho's strong blogosphere, is what made this possible. Thank you, Larry, for all that you've done for Idaho's Democrats. You deserve a huge round of applause, at the very least. Now let's beat Sali.
On the Web:
Walt Minnick for Congress