BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Boise attorney Tom Arkoosh announced Tuesday that he’s running for Idaho attorney general as the Democratic nominee.
Arkoosh announced his candidacy amid family and friends at the Statehouse. He’s replacing Steve Scanlin, who ran in the May Democratic primary as a placeholder but withdrew from the race last week. That allowed the Democratic Party to pick a replacement.
Arkoosh will face former U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador in the November general election. Labrador, a Tea Party favorite during his four terms in Congress, defeated five-term incumbent Attorney General Lawrence Wasden in the May Republican primary.
Wasden is well known for his strategy of simply calling balls and strikes when interpreting the law, which irked some Republican lawmakers who didn’t like his legal advice. Labrador has said he will make the office much more partisan. He ran for Idaho governor four years ago but lost to current Gov. Brad Little in the Republican primary.
“I’m running for attorney general to be the people’s lawyer,” Arkoosh said to about 50 supporters at the Statehouse. “By contrast, the other candidate in this race is a shameless political opportunist, the kind of political conflict creator that illustrates so much of what is wrong with our politics. He will make decisions on the basis of what he thinks will advance his career, and not what the law requires or what is best for the state of Idaho.”
Arkoosh, 70, said he has no political ambitions, but simply wants an attorney general’s office that is run ethically and competently. He’s a fourth-generation Idahoan with 44 years of legal experience. He graduated from Harvard University with a bachelor of arts in government and economics. He received his law degree from the University of the Idaho College of Law.
Arkoosh’s campaign treasurer is Jim Jones, a former Republican Idaho attorney general from 1983 to 1991 as well as a former justice of the Idaho Supreme Court from 2005 to 2017, the last several years as chief justice. Jones is with Take Back Idaho, a group of Republicans that opposes far-right Republicans and seeks to put forward more moderate candidates.
“I served as attorney general and love and respect this office,” he said. “I’m really concerned about what will happen with the attorney general’s office with the GOP candidate. We’ve got to get back to good commons-sense government.”
Jones said Arkoosh has mainly been unaffiliated in the past, but registered as a Republican to vote in the Republican primary in May, and recently changed that to Democrat to run for attorney general. Jones said that for decades the attorney general’s office under both Republicans and Democrats has given sound, even-handed legal advice that says what the law is, “not what somebody tells you they want it to be.”
An essential difference between Labrador and Arkoosh emerged Tuesday. Labrador has said he would have joined a Texas lawsuit aimed at overturning the 2020 presidential election by invalidating results in four states former President Donald Trump lost.
Wasden didn’t join the lawsuit, citing his respect for states’ rights and his concerns about supporting a legal argument that could allow other states to sue Idaho over decisions made by the state’s legislature and governor. That became a major issue in the Republican primary, even though the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Texas lawsuit.
“Unlike my opponent, I do not believe in the ‘Big Lie,’” Arkoosh said. “I respect the sanctity of elections and will not spend the attorney general’s budget on crank lawsuits against the federal government.”
Labrador was unavailable Tuesday. His campaign spokesman, Brent Littlefield, provided a statement.
“There is nothing more political than this backroom deal cut by the Idaho Democratic Party with Mr. Arkoosh, who has literally flip-flopped between parties in the course of a year,” Littlefield said.
This story has been corrected to note Jim Jones is the campaign treasurer, not campaign manager.