Idaho’s political cognoscenti (a nice way of saying “junkies”) would probably agree with the statement that historically most of Idaho’s outstanding governors first cut their teeth with service in the Idaho Legislature.
Democrats like John Evans and Cecil Andrus, and Republicans like Phil Batt and C.A. “Doc” Robins come immediately to mind.
Conversely, governors who have struggled to govern well and often clashed with the Legislature’s leadership seldom have any legislative service or at best one term in the distant past. Current Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter and former Governor Dirk Kempthorne immediately come to mind.
Politics is all about relationships, and working with fellow citizens for the common good. It is not for the faint-hearted and as has been often pointed out it is a contact sport. Governors who emerge from the Legislature have built-in advantages regarding relationships with fellow legislators and often a solid knowledge of the state’s budget as well as how state agencies operate.
On June 5 a panel at Idaho State University co-sponsored by the Idaho State Journal. Purpose of the panel was to discuss the future direction of Idaho’s politics. Not surprisingly I predicted that Governor Otter would seek a third term largely because both he and First Lady like the limelight.
His paucity of accomplishments when one looks at his dismal record makes one wonder why he would even want a third term. In this writer’s opinion the litany of failures does not begin to warrant re-election, but he is the incumbent and incumbents tend to win.
I also predicted First District congressman Raul Labrador would not challenge Butch but instead would stay in the Congress, and that his reelection campaign would be run by John Foster, a former aide to one-term Democratic congressman Walt Minnick. Foster has since become a Republican and emphatically denies he will be running Labrador’s campaign.
I surprised the audience though when I said if Otter did not run there were only four Republicans I considered to be really qualified to be governor:
Lt. Governor Brad Little, House Speaker Scott Bedke, Sandpoint State Senator Shawn Keough, and Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis from Idaho Falls.
Besides Senator Davis, there was one other panel member that as we went along I realized had the potential to be a good governor - former Democratic Pocatello State Representative James Ruchti, who served in the House from 2006 through 2010. (more…)