In an exclusive interview at the Breitbart News Washington, D.C. offices, local Idaho conservative attorney Bryan Smith walked through why he is challenging his Congressman Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) in the state’s primary.
“Simpson was one of only three Republicans who voted in favor of funding ACORN with tax money,” Smith said. “He had an opportunity to defund ACORN, there were 230 Republicans who voted against of funding ACORN and he voted in favor of it. Certainly, I would have voted to defund ACORN because that was a corrupt, criminal enterprise engaged in rampant voter fraud and other nefarious activities. Clearly, that should never ever have been funded by the government.”
“The other thing [Simpson’s] done is he voted for the over $700 billion bailout. He has been an ardent supporter of earmarks. He also voted for Cash for Clunker,” Smith said. “He has also come out in favor of an Internet sales tax. He’s broken his tax pledge and there’s actually a video of where Chris Wallace is interviewing him and he said the tax pledge was something he signed when he first ran for office. He said he didn’t know he was signing a marriage agreement that would last forever and then laughs in the video, or giggles might be a better description. Then he’s got the NSA vote [where Simpson opposed an amendment from Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) that would have curbed the NSA’s spying], and now he won’t support defunding Obamacare. He’s voted for the debt ceiling increase at every opportunity. He has a very liberal record especially when compared to the values and traditions of the people of his own district.”
Smith, who was born in Boise, ID, in 1962, is 51 years old. “My family was the one that actually settled Canyon County [which is just outside the Boise area],” he said. “My family goes back to 1863. They were the first ones in Canyon County and came out from Missouri. I have long and deep roots in Idaho. I’m related to the three famous Johnston brothers in Canyon County–they’re my great, great, great uncles.” Smith’s parents still live in Canyon County, where his father was a baker and his mother a stay-at-home mom. “I grew up in the Nampa-Caldwell area,” he said, noting there was a stretch where his family had moved to California when he was young while his father had been out of work before he moved back to Idaho. He graduated from Nampa High School. “So I am a Bulldog by heritage,” he said. He then attended Ricks College in Rexburg, ID, before finishing at Brigham Young University in Provo, UT, then getting his law degree in California where he practiced for a few years before moving back to Idaho to settle in Idaho Falls in 1994 where he and his wife, who have five children and one grandchild, still live.
Smith’s move into politics is a true Tea Party story. In 2008, he attended the state GOP convention in Sandpoint, ID, in Bonner County. “I was very impressed,” he said. “At that time, there was a movement to replace what you’d call the establishment Republican people with people who are more liberty-minded. I fell in love with that process in 2008. I saw it happen, firsthand. I saw the chairman of the party, who was an establishment type, removed because of a major grassroots operation.”
Between 2008 and 2010, Smith worked to help get Idaho’s GOP primaries to be closed primaries instead of open primaries. I hope you can appreciate how significant that is, because it [the way it was] was allowing Democrats and liberals and moderates to vote in primaries. They were diluting our candidates. And that actually involved a court challenge under the First Amendment under the United States Constitution in which the Republican Party prevailed in suing the establishment in Idaho and we got our closed primary.”
In 2010, when the state’s GOP convention came to his town of Idaho Falls, Smith coordinated the event. “Since I hosted the convention, people would ask me questions about interviews and everything, and I was very visible that year,” Smith said. “I remember watching Congressman Simpson come in in 2010, and he kind of hung out in the lobby. He wouldn’t actually come in. There were over 500 delegates. This is at East Idaho Technical College. There’s a big auditorium. You would see in front of yourself 500 to 600 people. They were all real conservative and helped move the party to more conservative values. And Simpson is out in the lobby and I’m watching this. I could tell he felt uncomfortable. I felt totally comfortable with the people in the auditorium. He came in and gave a very short speech, and got a very cool welcome. As soon as his speech was over, he bolted for the door never to be seen again. No questions, no mingling, no discussions.”
That served as part of the beginnings of his interest in potentially running against Simpson one day, but he says “there’s another half to that story.”
“At the same time, there was a guy running for Congress that came to that convention,” he said. “A guy by the name of Raul Labrador. Raul shows up and the lid blows off the building. They were so excited to see him and to see that there was a true conservative who was running. Not only fresh blood, but somebody who was one of them. I immediately felt at home with the people in the auditorium. I understood their values and I understood their traditions and their commonsense conservative principles. And I thought it was a shame that my representative, Congressman Simpson, didn’t even feel at home at the convention.”
Labrador has become one of the strongest conservative fighters in Congress since being elected. “What really solidified my view toward possibly running against Mike Simpson was I was in Soda Springs, ID, I had been there in March of 2010,” Smith said. “I attended a town hall meeting [with Simpson] and he wouldn’t take any questions but the guy running the meeting at the school said, ‘hey does anyone have any questions?’ I was the only who raised my hand to ask a question. I asked Congressman Simpson why in the world he voted in favor of bailing out the rich Wall Street banks on the backs of taxpayers. He said he ‘looked into the eyes of the Treasury Secretary and the Federal Reserve Chairman and saw they were scared.’ So he became fearful himself and voted for it. That really bothered me that we would have a representative who would make decisions based on fear instead of principle. So that got me thinking about it again in 2010. So, time progressed between 2010 and now and I find myself here today.”
When asked which lawmaker or lawmakers he would want to emulate were he elected, Smith said he has “really enjoyed watching Trey Gowdy in his precision of work on his committee assignments and also on TV. He’s very articulate. He’s very conservative. He knows what the message is and he’s not afraid to share it.”
“Also, Justin Amash, I think he is a good advocate, as well as Raul Labrador from my home state.”
Conservative groups like the Club For Growth have lined up behind Smith in the Idaho race. Former Ohio Rep. Steve LaTourette, who refers to Tea Partiers as “chuckleheads,” said he will back Simpson up dollar for dollar on what the Club spends in the race through his group Republican Main Street Partnership. Smith, who has shown himself to be a prolific fundraiser by raising $150,000 in this year’s second quarter–an impressive haul for any non-incumbent primary challenger–is counting on the grassroots to help propel him to victory.
Running against the establishment, Smith said, is “very encouraging.”
“It is very clear that the establishment wants business as usual,” he said. “They recognize that Congressman Simpson is very at home in Washington, D.C., and not as comfortable in his district. But the good news for us is on the grassroots level, there are lots and lots and lots of people in Idaho’s Second Congressional district that are not being fooled by politics as usual. They want a new direction. They see that if you do the same thing over and over again, you don’t get a different result. I’ve been saying on the campaign trail that if you want politics as usual, vote for a politician. If you want something different then vote for me. That message is resonating with the grassroots level in spite of the establishment’s efforts to continue business as usual.”
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct an originally inaccurate description of the location of the 2008 Idaho Republican Convention.