With word out about the entry of Keith Allred, founder and leader of the Common Interest group, into the race for governor as the first substantial Democratic candidate, some scattered thoughts come to mind. (More collected thoughts will follow, later.)
It may go without saying but should be noted that Allred is the nominee-in-waiting. All the major eminences of the state Democratic party (Cecil Andrus, Bethine Church, legislative leadership, others) already are lined up behind him. His announcement grows out of a specific search for a candidate by the party. Allred will be the nominee barring some unusual or unexpected development. He will be trying to unseat a governor, Republican C.L. "Butch" Otter, something not done in Idaho since 1970.
He will be the fourth Democratic nominee in a row who doesn't currently hold public office, and third in a row who's never run for any office before. Businessman Jerry Brady, nominee in 2006 and 2002, had never run for office before. Attorney Robert Huntley (1998) had been a Supreme Court justice and legislator, some years before.
Name ID will be a factor: Allred is well-enough known in political circles, but not much outside of them. That available blank slate is both advantage and liability, depending on who takes best advantage.
He will need a bumper-sticker message to complement his existing messages. And there are existing messages via Common Interest; Allred will be tightly associated with them, and even seems to encourage identification with them in a letter to Common Interest members (as: wouldn't it be great to have a governor who can get all this done?). How the Republican members of CI respond will be worth watching. So also the picking-apart of CI's long and wonkish white papers on various issues; they are thoughtful and interesting and few Idahoans probably will read them.
A quote from Kevin Richert's Idaho Statesman blog: "If Otter is a populist's populist, then Allred is a wonk's wonk." That may be what Otter is counting on.
Allred's background does not grow out of any rooted connection to Idaho Democrats. Will the base be wary, in an election when many in the base will be struggling with what to do about the one Democrat they did elect to major office, Walt Minnick. And how will Allred relate to Minnick? From day one, this will amount to walking a thin line.
More to follow.