As expected, Boise School District trustee and businessman A.J. Balukoff officially announced Tuesday he's running for governor of Idaho. He becomes the first Democrat to enter the race.
Balukoff's campaign website went live mid-Tuesday morning and features this announcement video.
When members of Idaho’s Democratic Party approached Balukoff about running for governor he didn’t think they were serious.
“I told them, ‘this is not an entry level position,' Balukoff recalls. “But apparently it is.”
Balukoff's in-person announcement that he's running for governor was staged in front of a Boise elementary school. He’s served on the Boise school board for 16 years and is currently chairman. That's the only office he’s ever run for.
Balukoff is a businessman who co-owns some high profile Boise properties including downtown’s Century Link Arena and the Steelheads hockey team that plays there.
He’s making education one of two planks in his campaign. His message is that education is underfunded in Idaho. His list of problems he wants to address all come back to funding. That includes extra fees charged to parents, school districts moving to four day school weeks, and classroom overcrowding.
Balukoff’s other main plank is breaking up the state dominance of the Republican Party. He says Idaho’s current state leadership puts the needs of powerful interests above those of regular people.
Breaking Republican dominance won’t be easy. The last Democrat who ran for governor got a little more than 30 percent of the vote.
But it's still uncertain who Balukoff will face next November. Two-term incumbent Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has said repeatedly he’ll run again, but hasn’t officially announced his candidacy. There is already another Republican in the race, state Sen. Russ Fulcher. Balukoff says he doesn’t care who his opponent will be.
“Either one is more of what we’ve always gotten in this state,” he says.
Idaho’s tendency to lean Republican isn’t Balukoff’s only challenge. He acknowledges he has little name recognition outside Boise. He says his campaign will spend a lot of time traveling the state.
“I’ll meet people and talk and answer questions and get to know them and try to let them get to know me," he says. “I’ll stand on my experience here working on the school board. I want those kids in the rural parts of the state to have the same opportunities the kids in the Boise School District have.”
Copyright 2013 Boise State Public Radio