By: Bob Fick, Associated Press Writer
(AP) Idaho Democrats chose candidates Tuesday to take on a pair of popular Republicans — Sen. Larry Craig and Gov. Dirk Kempthorne.
Former Wall Street investment banker Alan Blinken easily defeated an underfinanced real estate agent to advance to the general election to take on Craig, who faced no GOP opponent in his bid for a third term.
With 41% of precincts reporting, Blinken had received 76% of the vote.
Even before the primary, the 56-year-old Craig called Blinken his toughest opponent in a 22-year congressional career and told supporters he needed a record $4 million to win in November.
Blinken, a 64-year-old millionaire who was President Clinton’s ambassador to Belgium, was painted by critics as an elite carpetbagger who doesn’t understand Idaho values. He has lived near the Sun Valley resort for nearly a decade but did not register to vote in Idaho until last year.
In the governor’s race, newspaper publisher Jerry Brady trounced 81-year-old retired construction worker Rue Stears for the Democratic nomination to challenge Kempthorne. Brady was getting 88% of the vote with 39% of precincts reporting.
The governor, dogged by an eroding economy and intensifying fiscal problems, soundly defeated three primary challengers: Walter Bayes, Milt Erhart, and Raynelle George. Kempthorne had 64% of the vote with more than a third of precincts reporting; his nearest challenger had 28%.
Brady, 65, took a paid leave as publisher of the Post Register in Idaho Falls to run for governor. He emphasized Idaho’s economic woes during an advertising blitz to build name recognition, but the grandson of a former governor has to contend with a decade of editorials the GOP believes show him to be a liberal in what is arguably the nation’s most Republican state.
The GOP holds 93 of Idaho’s 105 legislative seats and all four members of the congressional delegation are Republicans. George W. Bush took more than 67% of the vote in the 2000 presidential election.