Idaho could move
Two years ago,
Idaho's congressional delegation took a hard turn to the right. Two
Republican senators, Dirk Kempthorne and Larry Craig, already led
the state, but the addition to the House of newcomer Helen
Chenoweth (who claims that salmon aren't endangered because they're
still available at the supermarket) moved the delegation to a new
extreme. In 1995, Idaho amassed the lowest environmental voting
score of any state's delegation - straight zeroes, according to the
League of Conservation Voters' recently released scorecard. The
delegation consistently voted against laws that would rein in the
state's mining, timber and livestock industries.
Believing that many Idahoans feel abandoned by their current
representation, a Boise businessman says he's eager to shift the
political balance. Walt Minnick, 53, a former Republican turned
Independent, is running on the Democratic ticket against Sen.
Craig. Minnick's campaign theme, "Don't Waste Idaho," points a
finger at Craig for allowing nuclear waste shipments into the
state. Minnick also says he wants to save the state's endangered
salmon and protect public lands.
But Minnick, a
native Westerner, is also a fiscal conservative who advocates a
balanced federal budget and campaign-finance reform. For over 20
years he worked for Trus Joist, a wood-products corporation in
Idaho, eventually becoming its chief executive officer. Before
launching into business, he served a brief stint in the Nixon
administration but resigned in 1973 to protest the administration's
involvement in Watergate. He has never before run for elective
"Minnick is a fairly
rare breed," says Karl Brooks of the Idaho Conservation League.
"He's both a successful businessman and a devoted conservationist."
For Brooks, that means Minnick could "re-define where the middle
ground is in Idaho."
Defeating Craig won't be
easy. He has championed many causes for the powerful livestock,
timber and mining industries in the Gem State. He co-sponsored the
grazing bill now before Congress, supported last year's salvage
logging legislation, and worked against serious mining law
"Sen. Craig has been a
real friend to the resource industries of Idaho," says Bob Sears of
the Idaho Cattle Association. "He'd be real hard to replace."