- Associated Press - Sunday, May 4, 2014

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (AP) - Republican U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador said members of Congress affiliated with the tea party movement are having a positive effect, and that he should be returned to the House of Representatives for a third term from Idaho’s 1st Congressional District.

“I think Washington has changed a little bit because I’m there,” Labrador said during a recent interview with The Associated Press. “I want the opportunity to complete the mission.”

Labrador pointed to reduction in the federal budget deficit and a drop in the unemployment rate as two places where he and other tea party Republicans have been effective.

“That’s because people like me went back to Washington to stop the agenda of President Obama,” Labrador said.

Labrador faces three challengers in the May 20 GOP primary election. They are Sean Blackwell of Rathdrum, Michael Greenway of Eagle and Lisa Marie of Boise. But there is little to suggest that the 46-year-old lawmaker is in any trouble. Labrador won in the last general election by a 63 percent to 31 percent margin.

For the Democrats, state Rep. Shirley Ringo of Moscow and Ryan Barone of Hayden are facing off in the primary.

Labrador is a lawyer who defeated incumbent U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick, D-Idaho, to win a House seat in 2010. A native of Puerto Rico, he graduated from Brigham Young University and the University of Washington School of Law.

Labrador said his top achievement so far has been helping to reduce the federal deficit from $1.4 trillion to about $600 billion.

“It’s not great, but it’s better,” he said.

The unemployment rate has dropped from 10 percent to around 7 percent, he added.

“Strong fiscal conservatives fighting in the House have made a huge impact on the economy,” Labrador said.

Blackwell is a hemp advocate who contends the media and government are owned by the nation’s top 1 percent of earners. Greenway is a Boise State University political science student who contends Labrador has contributed to gridlock in Congress. He said he would seek compromise with Democrats in Congress.

Marie does not appear to have campaigned.

Ringo, the likely Democratic nominee, has a different view of Labrador, calling him a leading force for “ineffectiveness.”

“When you look at his willingness to shut down the government in order to stop the Affordable Care Act, that doesn’t speak well to his idea of how government should work,” Ringo said.

A former high school math teacher, the 72-year-old Ringo has served seven terms in the state House. She said she had already decided not to seek an eighth term when she was approached to run for the congressional seat.

She was the senior Democrat on the joint budget committee, and said her legislative accomplishments include pushing a bill that allowed victims of domestic violence to register to vote without making their addresses public.

Barone, 26, is a recent college graduate who is positioning himself as an alternative to a career politician. He has said he supports gay marriage, amnesty for immigrants and a higher federal minimum wage.

Labrador is opposed to raising the federal minimum wage, even though Idaho is near the bottom in average pay for workers.

“It will lead to higher unemployment,” he said.

Labrador believes the way to raise Idaho wages should be creating more high-paying jobs in natural resource industries such as logging and mining. Government regulations stand in the way of expanding those industries and creating more family wage jobs, he said.

More than 60 percent of the land in Idaho is owned by the federal government, and Labrador supports efforts to wrest control of that land and place it with the states.

“If we get the federal government out of Idaho, it will create more jobs,” he said. “The state can do a much better job than the federal government can do.”

Labrador also believes that Republicans will win control of the U.S. Senate in the November election.

He said Americans instinctively vote for divided government because they “don’t trust government in general” and see divided government as a way to keep its power in check.

Labrador said efforts should continue to overturn the Affordable Care Act, the signature achievement of the Obama administration.

He contended that the act shifted costs of health care to people who have good insurance policies.

He prefers “market-driven ideas” such as health care savings accounts.

Labrador in his next term would like to work on tax reduction and regulatory reform, to give businesses some stability, he said.

He also believes some form of immigration reform will occur, although he opposes amnesty for immigrants who are in the country illegally.

“We have to do it right,” Labrador said.

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