Politics & Government

Minnick builds alliances in Congress and focuses on constituents as a Democrat in a Republican district

WASHINGTON — From the day nearly two years ago that he knocked a Republican out of office and was elected as Idaho’s only Democrat in Congress, Rep. Walt Minnick has been on the run, with his eye on the Nov. 2 finish line.

To hold onto the seat, he knew he’d need the kind of voting record that would pass muster in Idaho — even if it meant bucking the ambitious legislative agenda of the Democratic leaders who controlled Congress. Since he decided to eschew earmarks, he also knew he’d have to show voters other accomplishments, such as strong constituent service and meaningful legislation.

So as Congress bolted out the door in late September to campaign, Minnick went home to Idaho with an achievement few freshmen congressmen can claim, including those in his own majority party: a bill he conceived and sponsored that had just passed the House.

The America Works Act, part of a package that champions jobs and increased domestic manufacturing, passed 412-10 in the waning hours before the recess.

The act ensures that study programs that get federal funds give graduates portable, industry-recognized credentials. A welder trained in a junior college in Maryland, for example, would be certified to work in a machine shop in Idaho.

It was co-sponsored by several other conservative Democrats and two Republicans, including Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho. It also had the backing of two special interests that seldom come together: labor groups and manufacturers. That drew praise from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, who had this attaboy for Minnick:

”Congressman Minnick worked hard to get support for this bill from manufacturing associations and unions,“ Hoyer said, ”and I was pleased to bring it to the House floor, where it passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.“

That approach has become something of a Minnick trademark. Even as other Democrats from conservative districts flounder in the polls in the days leading up to the election, Minnick has maintained a lead in western Idaho’s 1st District by seldom straying from his carefully planned course.

Read the complete story at idahostatesman.com