Raúl Labrador and Tom Arkoosh cited reasons why they would be the best candidates for attorney general during an Oct. 3 debate broadcast by Idaho Public Television.
Role of the attorney general
According to the attorney general’s website, the office of the attorney general provides legal representation for the state of Idaho. The attorney general makes sure Idaho law, as determined by state legislature, is defended.
“Its mission is the consistent application of the rule of law to things that matter to its clients — the Idahoans,” Arkoosh said. “The guidebooks are the United States Constitution, the state constitution and our state statutes.”
Right off the bat, Arkoosh and Labrador maintained opposing ideas over the political nature of the office.
Labrador, a former representative for Idaho’s first congressional district, emphasized the importance of working within the political process and building intergovernmental relationships.
“The greatest fights for the future of our nation, for the future of our country, are happening in the courts,” Labrador said. “I think (in) the attorney general’s office, it’s important to have someone who knows how to work with the legislature.”
Arkoosh, who has practiced law for 44 years, on the other hand, believes the attorney general should take a mediator role.
“It is my hope if that job is conducted correctly, if that job is conducted by someone with the experience of 44 years counseling clients, that we will come to the middle and talk it through before we get to the extreme of litigation,” Arkoosh said. “This state has too quickly gone to litigation, and it cost us a lot of money.”
Currently, Idaho has three pending lawsuits before the state supreme court regarding anti-abortion bills passed by the state legislature. One responsibility of the attorney general is to represent the state in such cases.
Arkoosh expressed willingness to put the law over his own personal feelings on the issue.
“The attorney general has to support their decision regarding what they decide to do,” Arkoosh said.
Labrador showed support for the state’s right to determine its own law, upholding the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
“We need to defend the law of Idaho instead of saying we’ll cave to the federal government,” Labrador said.
Labrador thinks that it is unacceptable for the federal government to intervene with state law unless the state is clearly violating federal law and that with the anti-abortion bills, the federal law is not being clearly violated.
The former congressman still holds out hope for higher-level lawsuits.
“We’re going to win on appeal and in the Supreme Court,” Labrador said.
Private school vouchers
One question presented to the candidates asked about the constitutionality of private school vouchers.
Arkoosh sees the vouchers as a dead issue in Idaho because of the Supreme Court case Carson v. Makin. The case states that religious schools can not be excluded from public student aid programs.
“Very recently, the Supreme Court has said that if you’re going to give vouchers to private schools or money to private schools, then you have to give vouchers or money to religious schools,” Arkoosh said. “The Blaine Amendment in the state constitution says we can’t do that.”
Labrador said the legislature is adopting a “money follows the child” approach as opposed to a traditional approach to school vouchers.
“The parent gets to decide what they can do with that money, whether it goes to a private school, whether it goes to a religious school or whether it goes to a public school,” Labrador said.
Labrador recognized his own inexperience in water rights litigation.
“I’m going to hire experts to work on that issue because that is an issue that is so important to the people of Idaho,” Labrador said. “It is so important to the farmers, and I will have the best lawyers.”
Labrador expressed the frustration of Idahoans in regard to this issue.
“What the water users in Idaho are tired of is people who are not listening to their concerns and are not willing to work with them,” Labrador said.
Arkoosh sang the current administration’s praises, but he still suggested ways he would improve its foundation.
“I think what needs to happen is exactly what happened in the Yakima Valley,” Arkoosh said. “I think the junior users and the senior users need to get together and see it as ‘our’ problem, not ‘their’ problem and put together a consistent, well-funded 30-year plan to change our water budget in a realistic way.”
You can find out more about Arkoosh’s background and platform on his website.
You can discover Labrador’s positions and background on his website.