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‘Our party is divided and united’: Labrador elected chair of Idaho GOP by 2 votes


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Raul Labrador addresses members of the Idaho Republican Party after being voted as their party chairman Saturday, June 29, 2019 during a meeting at the Boise Centre in Downtown Boise. The former U.S. Representative from Idaho narrowly won the 111-109 vote over nominee Tom Luna, who served eight years as Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction. | DARIN OSWALD, DOSWALD@IDAHOSTATESMAN.COM

BOISE – Former Idaho congressman and gubernatorial candidate Raul Labrador has been elected chairman of the Idaho Republican Party.

Labrador narrowly defeated former Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, 111-109, in a majority vote Saturday morning.

“It’s amazing how close it was,” Labrador said. “It tells us how our party is divided and united.”

Labrador was a member of the Idaho House of Representatives from 2006 to 2010 before serving in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2010 to 2018. He stepped down from Congress to run for governor in 2018 but was defeated in the GOP primary by eventual winner Brad Little. Labrador announced his candidacy for chairman on June 18.

He will finish the two remaining years of former chairman Jonathan Parker’s term. Parker, who began serving in 2017, resigned in February. His wife filed for divorce in March, and he was arrested on May 31 on a count of first-degree stalking after allegedly peering into windows and masturbating outside of his estranged wife’s apartment complex.

Jennifer Locke has served as interim chairwoman since Parker’s resignation.

“This job is hard,” Labrador said. “This job has destroyed families. I promise you that our family’s together.”

During his victory speech, Labrador addressed divisions in the Republican Party and spoke of the need to eventually unite. Points of contention aren’t necessarily a bad thing, he said, because they are based in “things that we believe are going to make America great or keep Idaho red.”

”Let’s go ahead and fight when we have these internal battles. Let’s go ahead and fight in our primaries. Let’s go ahead and fight when we’re trying to pick (a) party chair,” Labrador said. “But when the decision is made, let’s stand together as a party. Let’s stand united and let’s do the things that are necessary to defeat the real enemy, which is the bad ideas of the other side.”

GOP Central Committee Chair Mark Fuller touted Labrador’s consistent support for President Donald Trump.

“(Labrador) is one of us. In days past, he sat in these chairs,” Fuller said. “The Swamp did not destroy him … his fight against the D.C. swamp prepared him.

“Under his leadership, the Idaho Republican Party will be a model.”

In a speech prior to voting, Luna similarly spoke of unity in the party, of the need to regain seats in the Senate and of fundraising.

“This isn’t about me. This isn’t about my political future. This is about the future of our party,” Luna said. “We can’t take our eye off the ball.”

This article was first published by the Idaho Statesman. It is used here with permission.