By BRIAN WALKER
POST FALLS — Raul Labrador said he often hears from Idahoans that the state is doing OK.
But the Republican congressman from Eagle believes Idahoans deserve better than OK. He also believes he can lead them there if he's elected next year as the state's governor.
Labrador brought his kickoff campaign for governor to American Legion Post 143 in Post Falls on Wednesday for an event attended by about 75 people.
"It is time for us to unleash the raw potential of our state," he said. "The people of Idaho are expecting more and deserve more. They tell me that things are good enough. Good enough is not what Idahoans will accept. We are willing to fight for more as Idahoans."
Other GOP candidates seeking to replace Gov. Butch Otter include Lt. Gov. Brad Little, former state Sen. Russ Fulcher and doctor and developer Tommy Ahlquist.
Before being elected to Congress in 2010, Labrador was an immigration attorney and served in the Idaho House. In the U.S. House, Labrador, a native of Puerto Rico, co-founded the reform-minded conservative Freedom Caucus.
Speaking at one of the largest American Legion posts in the state, Labrador — accompanied by his wife of nearly 26 years, Becca, and oldest son Michael — vowed to continue to fight for veterans' benefits. He said he has helped secure about $3.5 million in benefits for veterans and ensured many finally received the medals and awards they deserved.
"My greatest accomplishment in politics has been the constituent services we provide our veterans," Labrador said. "I am very proud of that. Too many people in government are willing to accept the first 'no,' but we have to find out why benefits are being denied."
It's that bullish determination that separates Labrador from the rest of the pack, said John Cross of Post Falls.
"If he tells you he's going to do something, he's going to do it," Cross said. "He will not [just] tell you what you want to hear."
Labrador, 49, said too many politicians are afraid to rock the boat, question leadership and simply shrug their shoulders when difficult issues arise.
"Public servants first and foremost need to stand up and stand out to best serve the interests of the nation and their constituents," he said. "Standing up means being subject to criticism from the media, special interests, liberal elites and politicians who just want to win another election to keep their jobs."
Labrador said, if elected, he'd work to end Common Core standards in education.
"We must give our kids the 21st century education they deserve so they can prepare for the jobs of tomorrow," he said. "We must do more for our children to compete in a global economy."
Labrador said Idaho has the highest income tax rates of all the neighboring states, so he wants to level the playing field.
"Minimum wage earners pay the same tax rate as the state's highest earners, but don't get all the loopholes," he said. "The tax code is written by insiders and benefits a select few. I promise you I will change that."
Labrador became teary-eyed when he spoke of his late mother, a single mom who ingrained the values of hard work and dreaming big into him. He touted his family and conservative values.
"I promise to the people of Idaho that, if I'm elected, I'll fight for conservative change," he said. "I will always defend our freedoms and values."