Former Rep. Sali may run for his old seat

Those close to former Rep. Bill Sali (R-Idaho) see a path to victory in the Republican primary for his old seat and think he might just go for it.
That would not be welcome news to those in Washington who would rather see another candidate as their nominee.


Sali is still mulling his options as the field for the race to face freshman Rep. Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) forms. Though nobody close to Sali professed any insider knowledge, they say the lack of a conservative candidate in the race is ripe for him.
“In examining candidates that have thrown their hat in, you need to ask whether these people are real, do they have the backgrounds to be serious contenders for nomination,” said Dennis Mansfield, a conservative activist and Sali supporter. “I don’t think the majority of the farmers and the businessmen and the moms and dads necessarily see it in the field.”
Minnick is one of the leading incumbent targets in the country, representing a district that went 62-36 for Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe best way to handle veterans, active-duty military that participated in Capitol riot Cindy McCain on possible GOP censure: 'I think I'm going to make T-shirts' Arizona state GOP moves to censure Cindy McCain, Jeff Flake MORE (R-Ariz.) in last year’s presidential race. Sali underperformed McCain severely, losing to Minnick 51-49, and he irritated many Washington Republicans even before that showing.
Mansfield said he thinks Sali will wind up pursuing his old seat. Though he is close to Sali, he said he hasn’t spoken to him recently and that his prediction could be wrong.
“I think there are a lot of people who are hoping he will,” said Mansfield, who ran for the seat in 2000 against now-Gov. Butch Otter (R). “If he did, I think he’d pick up the nomination.
If he were to run, Sali would face a primary with state Rep. Raul Labrador and Iraq veteran Vaughn Ward, the establishment favorite who recently received fundraising help from a number of GOP members and leaders.
Among them was Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who was quick to note that his fundraising support did not represent an endorsement. That was seen as a nod to the possibility of Sali running for his old seat. Simpson and Sali had a testy relationship going back to their time in the state legislature, and they have worked to put those issues behind them.
A source close to Sali said both of the other candidates have been pushed to the center of the party, leaving a vacuum for a conservative candidate in the race.
“The Ward campaign seems to be generating support from a lot of the more moderate factions of the party,” the source said. “That partially explains why Raul jumped in the race. Conservatives viewed there being a void.”
Since getting in, though, Labrador has been attacked for his work as an immigration attorney, which some conservatives suggest could disqualify him from the support of the hard right.
Labrador and state Sen. Mike Jorgenson (R) have been going back and forth over the issue. And in giving his endorsement to Ward on Thursday, state Sen. Lee Heinrich (R) alluded to it.
“Vaughn shares our Idaho values, and is the only candidate who will go to Washington and fight against giving illegal immigrants taxpayer-funded benefits,” Heinrich said.
Republicans in Washington don’t expect Sali to run for the seat, but the two sides have antagonized each other enough that the party isn’t counting on anything just yet.
A national GOP operative said Friday that Sali has made it known that he will decide on the race in January.
“He’s told state and D.C. folks that he won’t pull the trigger, but no one trusts him,” the source said.
The source also noted that people like Heinrich supported Sali previously.
“His supporters are starting to pick sides in the Labrador vs. Ward primary, so that could be a sign that they got a green light,” the source said.