Why The 2014 Idaho Governor’s Race Could Be A Real Race

Dec 4, 2013

Credit Boise State Public Radio

Long time Idaho political analyst Jim Weatherby says this is the most exciting governor’s race he’s seen in years.

Three people with major party backing now say they’re running. Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter hasn’t officially declared his candidacy but he’s said repeatedly he plans to run for a third term. He's hired a campaign manager and has a campaign website.

But State Senator Russ Fulcher from Meridian wants to take the Republican nomination from Gov. Otter in the May primary.

Businessman and Boise school board chair A.J. Balukoff threw his hat into the ring Tuesday as a Democrat.

Balukoff’s announcement is not why Weatherby is excited. He says Balukoff is a long shot, partly because Democrats have a hard time winning races in a state that favors conservative candidates, but also because Balukoff isn't well known outside of the Treasure Valley and he’s never been tested in a big campaign.

But Weatherby says Balukoff has an advantage: two strong Republicans are seeking the governor's seat.

“This gives Mr. Balukoff perhaps an opening a Democratic candidate has not had for some time,” Weatherby says.  

Sen. Fulcher is selling himself as the more conservative Republican candidate. Whoever wins the primary, Weatherby says, will have to position himself so far right that moderate Republicans could be alienated. But he says there isn’t really much difference between Otter and Fulcher.

“Often races in which there are few ideological differences become very personal,” Weatherby says.

If the Republican primary creates a bitter personal fight, the eventual candidate, whoever he is will come out looking bad.

“If he [the winner] comes limping and battered out of the Republican primary, there might be an opening for a long shot Democrat,” Weatherby says.

Weatherby says even then Balukoff will have to work very hard to build his name recognition around the state and woo moderates. But at the very least Weatherby says, this governor's race could be an interesting one. 

Copyright 2013 Boise State Public Radio