Ever since Bill Sali's most unlikely victory last fall, it's been widely presumed there will be a GOP primary in 2008. Sali is deeply unpopular with many Idaho Republicans, as evidenced by his 49.9% vote tally in last year's general election (and his 25% victory in the six-way 2006 GOP primary). His extremist votes will make him increasingly vulnerable as the cycle rolls on.
This week, Iraq War veteran Matt Salisbury became the first Republican to announce he'll run against Sali for the 2008 GOP nod. Salisbury seems to be a better fit for the 1st District than Sali, and the fact he was recognized by George W. Bush at the president's August 2005 Idaho Center appearance probably won't hurt him here as it would in many other CDs. He's young (34) and he seems to have an impressive resume. (Read more here.) He's clearly more moderate on social issues than Sali, telling KTVB that he's a "Lincoln Republican" who believes politicians should stay "out of your bedroom and out of your social mores. ... Idahoans deserve a candidate who doesn't represent social engineering." (Well, we had one last year in Larry Grant.)
But we need to learn much more, about Salisbury's stands. He told the Idaho Press-Tribune, “The greatest issue driving my campaign is the belief that Idaho’s 1st Congressional District deserves a candidate whose singular drive is to independently serve the public trust in such a way that the people know they have a leader in Washington committed to serving his constituents rather than a political career.” (Again, that sounds a lot like Grant, who is a lot more believable saying it at age 61 than Salisbury is at 34.)
Idahoans need to know whether Salisbury would be a rubber stamp for Bush's war policies (we have four of them already), and whether he'd serve the public trust by defending it or dismantling it, as Sali and his Club for Growth cronies seek to do. I'm guessing that Salisbury won't be the last Republican to take on Sali, either. Campaign 2008 is shaping up as a donnybrook in the 1st CD, for both parties. (Randy Stapilus at Ridenbaugh Press says it's the busiest district, by far, in the Northwest. Sounds like a region on the tipping point of change.)