Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, the most conservative member of the Senate in National Journal’s 2012 vote ratings, may not be a household name in much of America, but he is well known in his home state. Risch held a number of offices in state government, from state senator to lieutenant governor to, briefly, governor. Next year, Risch faces his first senatorial reelection campaign, and he appears unlikely to face a significant challenge in deep-red Idaho, where the only 2014 election drama to surface so far featured a potential GOP gubernatorial primary.
Six years ago, Risch had to be persuaded to run for the seat by his senior Idaho Republican colleague, Mike Crapo, with whom he had served in the state Senate. But Risch is comfortable in the Senate now, saying, “I really like this job. I wish I was here at a different time, because this is such a frightening time for the country, but I enjoy the job, and I’m glad Mike talked me into it, and I thank him for it regularly.”
Though he has not made a formal announcement, Risch fully intends to seek reelection in 2014, and he has been making the rounds in the state to prepare to be on the ballot again. Risch has contested 32 primary and general elections in Idaho, by his estimation, making him “very conversant with how Idaho people feel on issues," Risch said. He isn't among the Republicans looking over their shoulders for primary challengers this election cycle.
Risch thinks NJ's vote ratings validated that. “The effect it may have is simply confirming what people know about me," Risch said. "I’m not a mystery at home, by any stretch."
Having served more than two decades in the state Senate, much of that in a leadership role, Risch says, “I’ve given all the speeches I need to give on the floor.” He maintains that his time is better spent advocating for his constituents than “pontificating on cable television about some particular issue.” Additionally, Risch says, “what the media misses is how much influence a person has with their fellow senators. If they see them on cable TV a lot, they think, ‘this is an influential person.’ That isn’t necessarily the case. I have found in the caucuses I’ve sat in that those who speak infrequently but have a command of the subject they’re speaking on are listened to very carefully by the rest of the caucus. Those who speak on every occasion sometimes get tuned out more frequently.
"There’s an old saying around here that every senator should occasionally be guilty of possessing an unexpressed thought," Risch continued. "And I subscribe to that theory.”