"We have debt levels that are out of control, we have pressure to raise taxes like never before, there's a need to have someone who understands that the answers for our country lie in smaller government, leaner government. We need to send the right person to D.C. I think it's important that Idaho send the right person into that fight. I will be throwing my support behind Raul Labrador for Congress," Sali said.
Sali claimed Labrador didn't know he planned to back him, but just told him to "be there." Sali also said, slyly, that he had until 5 p.m. today to file for another position.
Labrador confirmed he had not expected the endorsement, but made it clear he'd spoken with Sali.
"It is a surprise, but it's an honor. I thank him, I thank his wife, who took the time to speak with my wife about what it's like to live in Washington. This endorsement shows the excitement for our campaign ... I'm not beholden to anybody but the people of Idaho. I will stand up against not just my enemies, I will stand up against my friends," Labrador said.
Labrador wants to unseat Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick in the November election, but first faces a crowded Republican primary in May. His primary opponent, political newcomer Vaughn Ward, had more money and high-level endorsements, including from Sen. John McCain.
Sali honored Ward's military service, but lampooned his experience.
"Sending Vaughan Ward to Congress is like sending a boy scout to Iraq," Sali said.
It was a crowded Republican primary in 2006 that vaulted Sali into the national spotlight from his House post at the Idaho statehouse.