After Winning Urban Areas, Fulcher Says He Lost Idaho's Governor Primary With Rural Voters

May 21, 2014

Russ Fulcher, left, and Gov. Otter talked quietly before Wednesday's GOP rally at the state Capitol.
Credit Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho Gov. C.L. 'Butch' Otter won his Republican primary Tuesday night, making him the first GOP governor since 1962 to win his party’s nomination three times in a row. Otter's victory wasn't a landslide, his main primary opponent, state Sen. Russ Fulcher, gave the longtime Republican politician a run for his money.

With all but three of Idaho's precincts reporting, Otter won just over 51 percent of the vote, and lost major counties like Ada and Kootenai to Fulcher.

"If somebody would have told me that, ‘Hey Fulcher, you’re going to win Ada, you’re going to win Canyon, you’re going to win Kootenai, and you’re going to split Bonneville,’ I’d a said, ‘done deal, we just won this race’," says Fulcher. "But it didn’t work out that way.” 

Fulcher joined Otter and many of the other Republican Party’s primary winners and losers on the steps of the state Capitol Wednesday morning.

Fulcher, a tea-party backed Republican who’s been in the state Legislature for the last decade, targeted voters in Idaho’s urban areas, and that showed at the polls.

“The irony was, is apparently I lost the race, in the rural part of the state, which I really saw as a stronghold," says Fulcher. "That was a surprise. We really targeted the areas that we won, and we didn’t target quite so much those rural areas and we should have, more.” 

Fulcher wasn’t able to raise nearly as much campaign cash for the race. Gov. Otter’s campaign raised nearly four-times as much as Fulcher’s did in the last five months.

Now, Fulcher says he’ll head back to the private sector and spend more time with his family.

Gov. Otter, with his wife Lori, spoke at Wednesday's Republican Party unity rally.
Credit Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Gov. Otter will now face Boise Democrat A.J. Balukoff in November’s general election.

Balukoff, a former Boise school board member and businessman, says Otter's narrow victory shows Idahoans want a change in the governor's office.

"People like Butch well enough personally, but after almost 40 years as a career politician, it's time for him to retire to his ranch," Balukoff said in a statement. "Idahoans are hungry for new leadership."

Copyright 2014 Boise State Public Radio