Rep. Raúl Labrador Jumps Into Idaho Governor's Race

Raul Labrador
Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)ASSOCIATED PRESS

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By Suzanne Gamboa

Rep. Raúl Labrador, a Republican conservative booed at a town hall over his comment that "nobody dies because they don't have access to health care," has jumped into the Idaho governor's race.

On Tuesday, Labrador joined three other Republicans to replace incumbent Gov. Butch Otter, who is not seeking re-election. Also bidding for the seat are a Democrat and three independents. Labrador's challengers include the state's Lt. Gov. Brad Little.

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"Idaho needs a proven leader who will stand against the special interests and politicians that have picked the winners and losers in our state Capitol for too long," Labrador, a four-term congressman, said in a statement on his campaign website.

He said he'd make a formal announcement in coming weeks but filed the forms required to register as a candidate for governor "to comply with the spirit and letter of the law."

Labrador was responding to an audience member in Lewiston, Idaho town hall Labrador held after the House approved a bill rewriting the Affordable Care Act.

"No one wants anyone to die," Labrador said. "That line is so indefensible ... nobody dies because they don't have access to health care."

Labrador later explained that his comment was a response to "the false notion that the Republican health care plan will cause people to die in the streets." He said he was trying to point out that hospitals are legally required to treat patients in need of emergency care regardless of ability to pay and the GOP bill wouldn't change that.

Labrador is a leader of the conservative Freedom Caucus. Born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, Labrador is a former member of the Idaho state House. He worked as an immigration attorney in Idaho.

He was part of the bipartisan Group of Eight in the House that tried to fashion an immigration reform bill but left as negotiations fell apart. He helped draft legislation to deal with Puerto Rico's fiscal crisis and get Republican support for it.