Idaho’s two candidates for attorney general accused each other of looking to politicize the office during a statewide televised debate Monday.
Democrat Tom Arkoosh opened the debate alleging his Republican opponent Raúl Labrador would turn the attorney general’s office into a political office that would deny women health care, defund the education system and ban books.
“I want to run a law office, and I think my opponent wants to run a cultural war room,” Arkoosh said.
Labrador denied the accusation, saying he would never put politics above the rule of law. Labrador did say he would aggressively defend policies and laws the Idaho Legislature passes and hopes to partner with legislators in drafting bills and laws so that they are not thrown out in court.
“It’s pretty clear that the people of Idaho are looking for a strong, aggressive, conservative attorney general that will defend the people of Idaho,” Labrador said.
The live, hourlong attorney general’s debate took place at Idaho Public Television’s Boise studio and marked the second of four Idaho Debates, which will all be broadcast across the state in the lead up to the Nov. 8 general election.
Labrador is an attorney who served four terms in the United States House of Representatives after serving in the Idaho Legislature. Born in Puerto Rico, Labrador was the first Hispanic member of Idaho’s congressional delegation.
Arkoosh is a partner at Arkoosh Law Office who has more than 44 years of legal experience. He has worked in civil, criminal, commercial and water resources law. Arkoosh has also worked as a county prosecutor and in the Washington Attorney General’s Office.
Labrador defeated incumbent Attorney General Lawrence Wasden in the May 17 primary election, while Arkoosh entered the race after original Democratic nominee Steven Scanlin withdrew his candidacy on July 18.
Under Idaho law, the Idaho attorney general’s duties include performing legal services for the state, representing the state in court, advising agencies and public officials on questions or the law and, upon request, issuing free legal opinions in writing for the Idaho Legislature or statewide elected officials. The attorney general also has a seat on the Idaho Board of Land Commissioners, which advises the Idaho Department of Lands on how to manage about 2.5 million acres of state endowment trust lands.
Idaho AG candidates discuss abortion policy
The two candidates also spent a good deal of Monday’s debate discussing abortion policy and law following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Labrador pledged to defend Idaho’s near total abortion ban. When asked about exceptions to the abortion ban, Labrador said “the reality is that our law is really clear; our law says that if if woman’s life is in jeopardy that the abortion can be provided.”
“(Arkoosh) needs to understand that we need to defend the law of Idaho instead of saying that we are going to cave to the federal government,” Labrador said.
Meanwhile, Arkoosh said he is worried about conservative Idaho legislators doubling down on additional restrictions to block access to abortion.
“I am afraid we are going to have a statue that comes up and tells us that a pregnant woman can’t travel (to obtain an abortion out of state),” Arkoosh said.
Idaho Capital Sun reporter Kelcie Moseley-Morris served as one the reporters on the panel asking questions during Monday’s attorney general debate.
Idaho Debates broadcasts continue Tuesday with a U.S. Senate debate
There are three remaining Idaho Debates that will be broadcast this month on Idaho Public Television and posted online at Idaho Public Television’s website.
Next up is the U.S. Senate debate between incumbent U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Independent candidate Scott “Oh” Cleveland and Democratic nominee David Roth. That 90-minute debate will be broadcast at 8 p.m. local time Tuesday. The Senate debate took place Monday and is already available to watch on Idaho Public Television’s YouTube page.
Two other debates are also scheduled.
- At 8 p.m. Mountain Time / 7 p.m. Pacific Time on Oct. 24, the Idaho superintendent of public instruction debate featuring Republican Debbie Critchfield and Democrat Terry Gilbert will be broadcast live on Idaho Public Television and streamed on YouTube.
- At 8 p.m. Mountain Time / 7 p.m. Pacific Time on Oct. 28, the Idaho lieutenant governor’s debate featuring Republican Scott Bedke and Democrat Terri Pickens Manweiler will be broadcast live on Idaho Public Television and streamed on YouTube.
The debates will be archived on Idaho Public Television’s website for viewers who cannot watch live, and Spanish language closed captioning will be added after the initial live broadcasts are complete.
Last month, three Idaho Republican incumbent elected officials announced that they would not participate in statewide televised debates leading up to Election Day. Gov. Brad Little and U.S. Reps. Mike Simpson and Russ Fulcher, both R-Idaho, declined to debate their opponents, as did Democratic candidate for state treasurer Deborah Silver. Little and Simpson also declined to debate their opponents heading into the May 17 primary elections.
The general election takes place Nov. 8, and Idahoans can already request an absentee ballot. To find out if you are registered to vote, register to vote online, to request a ballot or double-check your polling location, visit www.voteidaho.gov.
Idaho Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Idaho Capital Sun maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Christina Lords for questions: [email protected]. Follow Idaho Capital Sun on Facebook and Twitter.