One week ago, 2006 netroots hero Larry Grant stunned his supporters by withdrawing from his primary battle against Walt Minnick. As mcjoan wrote two days later, it was a classy decision by a man who has always put the good of Idaho ahead of personal ambition.
And today, Grant's selflessness is paying off for Idaho's 1st Congressional District, much earlier than expected. In 2006, it took us until October to get the ID-01 on the DCCC's Red to Blue list. In 2008, it happened today - 200 days before the election, and definitely early enough to make a real difference as we try to keep Rep. Bill Sali to a single term.
As D-trip chief Chris Van Hollen said in announcing the decision to make Minnick the 14th Red to Blue candidate this cycle:
Walt Minnick's Idaho values, experience as a business and community leader and commitment to bringing people together to solve problems make him an independent, effective voice for change for Idaho's families. The Red to Blue Program will give Walt the financial and structural edge to be even more competitive.
I worked for Larry Grant during his last run, so this has been a painful primary season for me. Frankly, I was angry when former Gov. Cecil Andrus - who had endorsed Grant in 2006 - picked Minnick this time around. There's been a lot of grousing among grassroots/netroots Idaho Dems about the unfair way the party elite treated Grant who, after all, lost by just 5% in a district that George W. Bush won by 40%. To many of us, this decision seemed to be all about the money - and indeed, with Andrus' seal of approval, Minnick wound up outraising Grant nearly 10-to-1 last quarter.
Minnick will need to work hard to save us from two more years of Sali. In his only previous run for public office, running against then-popular incumbent Sen. Larry Craig in 1996, Minnick lost by 19%. In some ways, it was a surprise to even see him emerge as a possible candidate last summer. He's not a natural politician.
But he does know how to raise money, and he has a biography that may prove more appealing than Sali's to an Idaho electorate that's grown by 50 percent since his last run, and an electorate that is both more interested in Democrats and tired of GOP rhetoric. When Sali responded to last week's news of Grant's departure by saying that Walt Minnick's values are those of Nancy Pelosi, I wrote this at my Red State Rebels blog:
Someone ought to remind Sali of these facts of Minnick's biography (from a story in High Country News): "In 1971, when some his age were dropping out and heading to Haight-Ashbury, Minnick moved to Washington, D.C. There he took a job with the Nixon White House, first as a staff assistant to the president, on the Domestic Council. At age 30, he was named deputy assistant director of the Office of Management and Budget."
Soon after, his boss' ethical lapses prompted him to leave his job, move to Idaho, and eventually bolt the Republican Party. Sorry, Rep. Sali, but Nancy Pelosi scaremongering didn't work all that well for you in 2006 and it'll have even less traction in 2008.
As mcjoan wrote last week, Walt Minnick owes Larry Grant and his supporters a big debt:
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 now Idaho Democrats owe Walt Minnick a debt, too. With today's Red to Blue designation, it's time to put any lingering disappointment behind us as we hail the D-trip's recognition that this is a winnable seat. With Idaho on the national radar, it's anyone's guess how widespread our Democratic gains might be this fall.
P.S. Here's a YouTube video featuring Cecil Andrus and Larry Grant at the Ada County Pizza & Politics last week, the day after Grant's decision to leave the race.
And here's Walt Minnick's website.