Fulcher drops out of governor race to run for Congress

BOISE -- Former Idaho senator Russ Fulcher announced Thursday morning that he is abandoning his plans to run for governor in 2018, setting his sights instead on a run for Congress.

Fulcher will run for the 1st Congressional District seat currently held by Rep. Raúl Labrador.

“I believe that government exists to serve the people, not the other way around,” Fulcher said in a Thursday press release. “Raúl and I have worked together for a long time to promote Idaho families and encourage government to act within its proper Constitutional role. We recognize the best way to serve the citizens of Idaho is to work together in complimentary roles. The 1st Congressional District race needs a candidate who will champion limited government and Idaho values. I am excited to offer my service to the people of Idaho to serve them in that capacity.”

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Fulcher, a five-term Republican lawmaker from Meridian, announced his run for Idaho Governor in August. Labrador, Lt. Governor Brad Little and businesssman Tommy Ahlquist will also run on the Republican ticket to replace current Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, who is not seeking re-election.

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Fulcher lost a previous bid for governor to Otter in the 2014 primary, coming up short by fewer than 13,000 votes.

Labrador says Fulcher has already won his endorsement.

“I fully support Russ Fulcher in his bid to become the next Congressman from Idaho's 1st District," Labrador said in a statement. "Russ' background as an international businessman, legislative Senate leader, and champion of small government makes him an excellent candidate for U.S. Congress. Having him serve in Washington DC would give me great confidence that the fight for liberty will continue. I am convinced that this is the best move for Republican party unity and also the best move to change the direction of our state and country.”

MORE: Former Idaho AG David Leroy to run for open House seat

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Fulcher had teased a "big announcement" Wednesday morning, but chose to postpone the news in the wake of a shooting that injured five people, including Majority Whip Steve Scalise, at a congressional baseball practice.

Former Idaho Attorney General David Leroy is also running for Labrador's House seat. He was the first GOP contender to throw his hat into the ring for the position, although the open seat is expected to attract a pool of GOP candidates.

"I am sorry Russell’s first choice race became too crowded, but we welcome him into the race for Idaho’s First Congressional District. Idaho needs leaders who are willing to stand and fight no matter the circumstances – not fold at the first sign of turbulence," Leroy said in a statement. "My goal is to seek the endorsement of each voter- not any one politician. Our differences will allow me to clearly present my unique qualifications, my conviction that Congressman should be a term-limited job, and my plans to break the gridlock, cut spending and defend the Constitution in Washington. I look forward to a positive dialogue with Russell about the issues most important to Idaho and our country."

Ahlquist also weighed in on Fulcher's departure from the gubernatorial race.