At the age of 70, David Leroy is not your typical candidate running for Congress, nor would he be your typical wide-eyed freshman if he happens to win the election for Idaho’s First District congressional seat.
Leroy is not looking for full-time work, or fancy job title. And his world won’t come crashing down if he loses. But don’t get the idea that Leroy isn’t serious about winning the First District seat, because he’s not your typical 70-year-old man trying to complete a life resume. Aside from his snow-white hair and more wrinkles in his face, Leroy basically is the same person I knew more than 30 years ago when he came within an eyelash of defeating Cecil Andrus in the 1986 gubernatorial race. He’s full of energy, articulate and has plenty of thoughts about what he’d like to accomplish as a freshman congressman.
Two comments that I often hear about Leroy’s candidacy are, “he’s too old,” and “why is he doing this?”
Leroy, who is from Lewiston, is running because he thinks the political system is broken — and he gives no president, past or present, a pass. “Unless we reboot and rebalance, I’m fearful that we will do severe damage to the democratic republic that we promised to be,” he said.
“The future is with those who seize it and are willing to do something with it. My considerable experience and seasoning is a great asset that is precisely calculated to meet the needs of this seat and this country at this time.”
Leroy, a former Idaho attorney general and lieutenant governor, says he has more experience than the other five candidates in this race combined. He might be right there, although he hails from a different era of Idaho politics.
However, three of the four members of the congressional delegation (Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, and Congressman Mike Simpson) are contemporaries and longtime friends of Leroy, so there would not be culture shock if he went to Washington. Leroy especially wants to build a closer relationship with Second District Congressman Mike Simpson, who over the years has been at odds with Congressman Labrador, who is running for governor.
As Leroy sees it, positive things can happen with two House members in a small state working together — both in terms of issues and constituent services. “About 50 percent of a congressman’s job is constituent work, and people would get a whole lot more bang for the buck out of a collegial constituent service that doesn’t duplicate efforts and isn’t allocated based on artificial lines drawn in any quadrant of the state.”
Forging a better relationship with Simpson will not sit well with some Labrador backers who think that Simpson is a RINO. But Leroy thinks it’s better for a two-member House delegation to work together, as opposed to canceling out one another.
Leroy has his eye on two panels — the House Committee on Government Oversight and Government Reform, and the Judiciary Committee. The oversight committee handles regulations relating to natural resources, which especially is important to the First District, and overall spending, and the Judiciary Committee.
“I’d like to get my hands on the machinery of government and the laws,” Leroy says. “President Trump has had a fabulous experience in his first year in regulatory reform, but unless we change the statutes in which those regulations were created, there is nothing that would prevent another president from moving those regulations back to where they started.”
Leroy views Trump as an “agent of change,” and supports him overall — but not blindly. Leroy is more reserved about his support for Trump’s tax-reform package, given the prospects of higher deficits. “I would prefer to see a president who is strongly committed to balancing the budget and making it easier, and not harder, for Congress to move in that direction.”
Leroy gives the president lower marks for not bringing forward strong initiative on trade negotiations and for creating “side issues” with his controversial rhetoric. “Words matter, and that’s why I choose my words carefully.”
Leroy, being 70 years old, would not plan to stick around long in Congress — three terms at the most. But Leroy is tells voters that the time he serves will be active and productive.
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Chuck Malloy, a Silver Valley native and longtime Idaho journalist, is a columnist with Idaho Politics Weekly and an editorial writer with the Idaho Press-Tribune.