Attorney General Lawrence Wasden discusses the slings and arrows of serving in public office during a visit with The Press on Friday. Wasden, Idaho's longest-serving attorney general, is running for re-election. MIKE PATRICK/Press
By DEVIN WEEKS Staff Writer | February 12, 2022 1:00 AM
"What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right," Albert Einstein once said.
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden can relate.
He has been accused of "representing the bureaucracy rather than the people." Well, yeah. That’s literally his job.
"The law says the attorney general represents the state,” Wasden said Friday.
That’s directly taken from Idaho Code 67-1401.
“It goes on to say that the attorney general represents the state agencies,” he said. “It’s not a function of whether I choose to or don’t choose to. I stood on the state steps. I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Idaho and to fulfill my duties. That means under the law. I don’t get to choose.
"That choice has already been made. The legislature gets to say that. When they say I represent the state, then I represent the state. I don’t get to simply say, ‘I’m not going to do that.’”
Wasden, who visited The Press with wife and campaign manager Tracey on Friday, is Idaho’s 32nd attorney general. He has represented the Gem State in legal matters since he was elected to the office of attorney general in 2002. He first joined the Office of the Attorney General in 1989 as a deputy attorney general assigned to the Idaho State Tax Commission.
He’s Idaho’s longest-serving attorney general, and he’s back for more. He announced his candidacy for a sixth term in November.
It hasn’t been an easy road, he said, especially through a divisive 2020 election preceded by an even more divisive global pandemic.
Wasden has suffered the slings and arrows of serving in public office. He and his family have received nasty phone calls and tolerated less than polite manners from people around the state and elsewhere.
He’s been told he’s not a real Republican, that he’s a communist, that he’s being controlled by China. That he has no courage.
“They have a First Amendment right, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they should behave the way they behave," he said. "If you disagree with me, you disagree with me." Somehow, some people have forgotten that they can talk to others and disagree without being disagreeable, he said.
"We can actually educate each other by having differences of opinion. That’s a good thing. It’s not a bad thing," he said. "Finding a way to work with people with whom you disagree is actually a healthy thing.”
One allegation against him that his opponents are using is that he didn't involve Idaho in the Texas v. Pennsylvania case, a lawsuit filed at the United States Supreme Court contesting the 2020 presidential election in certain states.
"The reason I didn’t is because that case violated the United States Constitution," Wasden said.
In the lawsuit, he explained, Texas sued Pennsylvania and other states for exercising their sovereign power in their elections.
"The question wasn’t, ‘Was the election valid?’ The question was, 'Can one state sue another state for that state’s exercise of its sovereign power?' And the United States Supreme Court said no," Wasden said.
"Texas didn’t demonstrate a legal interest in how Pennsylvania conducts its elections. That’s not a terribly difficult legal issue. It was very difficult from a political perspective. I chose not to join."
Actions like that case undermine a state's sovereignty, he said.
"The people who claimed they were defending sovereignty were actually attacking sovereignty," he said.
The office of attorney general is beholden to the rule of law, not to any party. Wasden is steadfast in his dedication to his role.
"I don't represent conservatives, I don't represent liberals, I don't represent moderates, I don't represent Republicans, I don't represent Democrats, I don't represent Libertarians," he said. "What I represent is the law."
It might be a double-edged sword, but it's the message he said he must deliver.
"That is what I will continue to deliver because it's what I've done," he said.
As attorney general, Wasden took an oath, "and I'm going to do what that oath says," he said.
"I believe that being true to the rule of law, and actually upholding the Constitution as it is written, is critical to our republic," he said. "It is critical to our state."
Art Macomber of Coeur d’Alene and former U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador of Eagle are running against Wasden in the attorney general race.