BOISE, Idaho — U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador on Wednesday secured two key endorsements from fellow congressional Republicans in his bid to become Idaho’s next governor.
GOP U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, in a statement distributed by Labrador’s campaign, announced he is endorsing the Idaho congressman for governor in 2018.
“His fierce commitment to conservative values, his respect for our Constitution, and his pledge to making government accountable to the people will make him a great governor and I’m proud to endorse his candidacy,” Cruz said.
Meanwhile a new political action committee dedicated to supporting allies of Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky also announced it would support Labrador in the race for Idaho’s top elected seat.
The Protect Freedom PAC is starting with more than $1 million to help support Labrador — although the group expects to expand its support to other Republican candidates across the country during the 2018 midterm elections. The only other candidate the group has endorsed so far is state Sen. Eric Brakey for a U.S. Senate seat in Maine.
Republican operative Michael Biundo will be the lead consultant for the Protect Freedom PAC, according to a press release distributed by the PAC. Biundo worked as Republican Rick Santorum’s 2012 campaign manager and later as a senior national adviser for President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign.
“Eric Brakey in Maine and Raul Labrador in Idaho are two perfect examples of the liberty-minded conservatives we need fighting for the values we hold dear,” Biundo said.
Labrador originally backed Paul in the 2016 presidential election before the Kentucky politician dropped out. Labrador then threw his support behind Cruz, who won Idaho’s presidential primary. He eventually endorsed Trump when Cruz’s chances of winning became slim.
Labrador faces Lt. Gov. Brad Little and Boise businessman Tommy Ahlquist in the Republican primary, which won’t take place until May.
Cruz’s endorsement comes just days after former presidential candidate Mitt Romney visited Idaho to throw his support behind Ahlquist, who is running for political office for the first time. Romney is considered a high-profile endorsement in Idaho — particularly in the eastern half of the state where Ahlquist hopes to woo a good chunk of his support— due to his prominence as a Mormon.
“No surprise here that DC politicians and their special interest groups are supporting another DC politician. Is Congressman Labrador running for congress again or is he running for governor of Idaho?” said David Johnston, Ahlquist’s campaign manager. “Tommy Ahlquist is a political outsider who brings new ideas and a fresh approach to shake up Boise and that’s exactly what DC politicians and political insiders are afraid of.”
Little’s campaign responded to Cruz’s endorsement by touting the local endorsement of Gem County Commissioner Bill Butticci, from Little’s hometown.
“It is humbling to have the support of a conservative leader from the town I was born and raised in,” Little said in a prepared statement. “It is the Idaho grown support of people like Commissioner Butticci that motivate Teresa (Little’s wife) and me each and every day of the campaign.”
Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has said he won’t run for a fourth term.