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Bryan Smith

Idaho lawyer races eight-term Republican Rep. Mike Simpson to the right of the GOP

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Bryan Smith, 51, didn't grow up in a political family. And he was too busy raising a family of his own--he and his wife, Sharon, have five children and one grandchild--and running an Eastern Idaho law firm for the past 20 years, to bother with politics.

That is, until 2008, when he was invited to attend the Idaho Republican State Convention in Sandpoint.

"I recognized that if citizens don't participate in the political process, somebody else will and we may not like what they do," said Smith.

Now he's taking on one of the Gem State's ranking Republicans, eight-term U.S. House Rep. Mike Simpson. Boise Weekly sat down to talk with Smith about his newfound political engagement and his effort to unseat one of the party's highest profile veterans.

Would it be important for Rep. Raul Labrador to support your candidacy?

We're taking my true conservative message across our own congressional district. It doesn't really matter what other people do.

But Congressman Labrador has been, thus far, publicly neutral in your race against Congressman Simpson.

He came out and said he was not endorsing Simpson. I do think that speaks pretty loudly.

Do you have a sense of how much money you may need for you campaign?

I thought it would be north of $500,000.

How much of your own money have you put into your campaign?

You can either make a loan and be reimbursed through future donations, or you can make a straightforward contribution. If somebody contributes to my campaign, do they get their money back? No. I put $50,000 in my campaign as a contribution to show that I want to be just like my constituents.

Give me a sense of how much money you have to raise from outside of your district.

I look at a number of publications--Politico, Roll Call--they're all picking our race in Idaho's 2nd Congressional District as one of the top races to watch in the nation.

But why would someone from Kansas City contribute to your campaign?

MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell calls Idaho "the Vatican of Republicanism." And Congressman Simpson's record doesn't fit into that. I've been endorsed by Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, and people feel motivated about a campaign that will make a difference.

But you must acknowledge Congressman Simpson's influence within your party. He serves on the House Appropriations Committee, and House Speaker John Boehner even came to Idaho to campaign on his behalf.

But Simpson isn't able to run on his record. People in Idaho are more interested in someone who leads, not based on fear, but with courage, and they're not interested if you're John Boehner's best friend.

Can you speak to the recent partial government shutdown tied to the GOP's effort to defund Obamacare?

Every poll says Obamacare is unpopular.

That said, was it still worth shutting down a government, and not even passing a continuing resolution, in the name of wanting to defund Obamacare?

Conservatives said we will fund every aspect of government, the good, the bad and the ugly, but we won't fund Obamacare. The blame lies squarely at the feet of the president.

But those same polls you mentioned blamed Republicans for the shutdown.

If you can't sell the truth, then you need new salesmen.

Do you align your values with any of the current Republican leaders on Capitol Hill?

[Michigan] Rep. Justin Amash, [South Carolina] Rep. Trey Gowdy, [Texas] Sen. Ted Cruz and [Utah] Sen. Mike Lee. I think all those individuals have shown tremendous courage.

But there are a good many members of your own party who push back against their politics.

Obviously, there's a faction of the Republican Party that is conservative and a faction that is more moderate and sometimes liberal. Nowhere will that be played out more than in 2014 with the race I'm running against Congressman Simpson.