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June 30, 2022

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5-term Idaho attorney general loses in GOP primary battle

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FILE - In this June 29, 2019 photo, Raul Labrador addresses members of the Idaho Republican Party at the Boise Centre in downtown Boise, Idaho. The former U.S. House member is running for state attorney general. Idaho's primary elections are Tuesday, May 17, 2022.
FILE - In this June 29, 2019 photo, Raul Labrador addresses members of the Idaho Republican Party at the Boise Centre in downtown Boise, Idaho. The former U.S. House member is running for state attorney general. Idaho's primary elections are Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman via AP, File) Photo Gallery

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador has won Idaho’s GOP attorney general primary, beating the longtime incumbent who had been criticized by the far right for not taking a more activist role.

Labrador prevailed over Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, backed by establishment Republicans, and Art Macomber, a political newcomer who has never held public office.

Wasden was slightly ahead in early returns Tuesday night, but lost the advantage as more counties outside of the highly populated Boise region began reporting votes.

Labrador, a favorite of the Tea Party during his eight years in the U.S. House, lost to Republican Gov. Brad Little in the 2018 Republican primary. The attorney general post could be a stepping stone for another gubernatorial run in 2026.

Wasden, a five-term incumbent, was endorsed by Little and former Republican Govs. C.L. “Butch” Otter and Phil Batt, Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson and former Republican Attorney General and Idaho Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones. He’s also endorsed by the National Rifle Association.

He had told lawmakers when he believed proposed laws would likely be struck down by courts, irritating members of his party. They created a Legislative Legal Defense Fund to hire their own attorneys that, critics say, tell lawmakers what they want to hear. The fund, controlled by House and Senates leaders, has spent millions.

“You can choose an attorney general that follows the law or one that thinks he’s a congressional activist or a policymaker,” Wasden said during a debate with Labrador and Macomber last month.

Labrador had been upfront in telling conservative lawmakers they’ll have a partner with him in the attorney general’s office.

“This job is not just a legal job, it’s a political job,” Labrador said in the same debate. “I would just be a lot more aggressive.”

Wasden has taken part in multiple lawsuits against the Biden administration but had been criticized for not joining a Texas lawsuit contesting President Joe Biden winning the 2020 election. The U.S. Supreme Court threw out that lawsuit after ruling Texas didn’t have standing.

Wasden said by not participating, he was defending Idaho’s sovereignty because such a lawsuit could allow other states to sue Idaho, interfering with Idaho’s ability to govern itself.

The GOP primary winner will face Steve Scanlin in November, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary. But the Republican primary winner is expected to easily win the general election in the deep-red state.

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