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Idaho attorney general candidates clash over role of office in debate

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Aaron Kunz | Idaho Public Television
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Candidates Arthur Macomber, Raúl Labrador and Lawrence Wasden answer reporters' questions during a debate on Tuesday, April 19 2022.

Three men are running to be the state of Idaho’s lawyer. Incumbent Lawrence Wasden is facing two Republican challengers: Coeur d’Alene real estate lawyer Arthur Macomber and former congressman and state representative Raúl Labrador.

The three candidates shared the stage this week in an Idaho Public Television debate.

Macomber and Labrador say the incumbent, Wasden, should have curtailed Governor Brad Little’s COVID emergency powers, taken more political stands, and been more persuasive in advising other state officials who have run into trouble with the law.

“This attorney general right now has clients that are not listening to him,” Labrador says, “He gives them legal advice, sometimes good, sometimes bad, most of the time bad, but they don't listen to what he's saying, so they ignore it, and that's costing the state of Idaho a lot of money. I think success is being able to sit down with your clients and letting them know what the law is, what the ramifications of their actions are going to be, and hopefully preventing them from making bad decisions that affect the state.”

Macomber argued Wasden’s actions put Idaho in a worse place to defend itself in lawsuit over a recently-passed bill to curtail abortions.

“Now we have a case in the fetal heartbeat case, where the Planned Parenthood people have actually cited the attorney general's opinion in their verified petition to the court to say this is no good,” Macomber said. “He's caught in a conflict, we have to fix this in Idaho, my office will fix this, that will never happen under a Macomber AG administration.”

Wasden says all attorneys sometimes have clients that don’t listen to them and he cannot make choices for other elected officials. He says he follows the law, and requirements for his office, even if it means defending things he doesn’t necessarily agree with.

“Under the law I don't represent conservatives, liberals or moderates,” Wasden said. “Either we believe in the rule of law or we don't. I read the Constitution and do what it says. I read the law and do what it says. I have and will continue to uphold the Constitution, even when it’s not politically popular.”

The primary election in Idaho is May 17. The full debate will air on KPBX on April 26th at noon and is also available on Idaho Public Television’s YouTube page.

Spokane Public Radio will also air Idaho Public Television's Superintendent of Education debate May 3, and the Secretary of State debate May 10.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.