- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 9, 2017

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador on Tuesday joined the growing list of candidates running for Idaho governor in 2018, entering the fray just days after a comment on health care access drew criticism.

The fourth-term congressman quietly filed the paperwork to run as a Republican gubernatorial candidate with no public event, ending prolonged speculation the conservative politician was eyeing the top Idaho seat.

“Idaho needs a proven conservative leader who will stand against the special interests and politicians that have picked the winners and losers in our state Capitol for too long. Idaho needs a strong leader who will make government fair for everyone,” Labrador said in a prepared statement, adding he will make a formal announcement of his candidacy in a few weeks.

Labrador is a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, who unsuccessfully ran for majority leader in 2014. He was elected in 2010 with overwhelming support from voters in a district that covers the northern half of the state and snakes down to the western part of the Treasure Valley, including parts of Boise.

He received criticism for his comment Friday that no one has died because they didn’t have access to health care - a claim disputed by health care advocates and medical experts. He has since said that his wording wasn’t elegant, but he maintains health care is not a basic human right.

Republican Lt. Gov. Brad Little, former GOP state Sen. Russ Fulcher and GOP Boise businessman Tommy Ahlquist have also entered the race to succeed Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter.

“The congressman will bring his experience in Washington, D.C. to the race, and I am excited to continue sharing my conservative message of building an even better Idaho with a fresh approach and new ideas,” said Ahlquist in a statement.

While the filing deadline to run for governor isn’t for roughly another year, Labrador’s announcement marks the last of the prominent GOP candidates expected to join the race. Two independent candidates and a homeless Democratic candidate have also filed for the top seat.

However, in a Republican-dominant state, the most competitive leg of the governor’s race has been the GOP primary. Political advertisements have already popped up for candidates on social media and television.

“Idahoans, including myself, look forward to hearing from Congressman Labrador about the accomplishments he has made while being in congress for over 6 years,” Little said in a statement.

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