Writings and observations

malloy CHUCK

In Idaho

If Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter wanted to turn the governorship into his personal kingdom for life, the system is solidly in place for him to do so.

Otter will be 72 on May 3, and he doesn’t look it. He describes himself as “healthy as a horse,” and h every well could be feeling that way for many years – and decades — to come.

So why not seek a third term in office? I didn’t think there was any way in the world he would be seeking a third term in the most demanding job in Idaho politics. But as long as he is feeling so well, then why not a fourth term? Or a fifth term? In 2034, he’ll only be 92 years old, so maybe he could think about an eighth term. Stranger things have happened. It has not been all smooth sailing for Otter in his two terms as Idaho’s chief executive. But, apparently, he loves his job. The perfect storm is in place for Otter to stay around for as long as he desires. Consider:

There are no signs of widespread “Otter fatigue.” People may get angry with him from time to time, but a lot of that melts away when the governor gives a friendly handshake, a pat on the back and shares some laughs. He doesn’t always give the greatest speeches, but nobody relates better to people on a one-to-one basis than Otter.

Money is always the name of the game, and the big donors are likely to continue to line his campaign war chest as long as he stays in power.

The majority of Senate and House leaders are backing Otter, and for good reason. He stood up to the Legislature just one time: That was 2009 when he promoted a 2-cent gas tax for Idaho roads. The Legislature took him to the woodshed on that issue and he has been as tame as a house cat ever since. A neutered governor always makes life much easier for legislators.

The Idaho media will continue to be on Otter’s side. Well … not intentionally. Otter gets his share of negative stories and critical editorials, especially from the Lewiston Tribune and Post Register in Idaho Falls. But the media is not equipped, or apparently willing, to give wall-to-wall coverage of a gubernatorial campaign – even when there’s a legitimate candidate running. Senate Majority Leader Russ Fulcher, who is bright, articulate and full of ideas, is getting only a little more attention than Walt Bayes and Harley Brown.

In fairness to the media, Fulcher hasn’t done that much to help himself by staying so quiet during legislative session. The captive media audience was there, but you hardly heard a peep from Fulcher. He probably would have done better for himself by stepping down from the Senate leadership and taking stronger stands during the Legislature. He could have proposed bills to repeal the state health exchange, or Common Core. But he held onto his leadership, putting him in the awkward position of working in harmony with the establishment, while running against it.

In any regard, the Idaho media isn’t covering his town halls that attract fairly large crowds, won’t run his news releases and is not terribly interested in finding out who he is and what he stands for. The media is not convinced this is a race. Assignment editors are not going spend diminishing resources covering a candidate who they view as marginal, at best.

My feeling is if a guy like Fulcher can’t get the media’s attention, then no one else will – at least, not someone with any kind of quality. If Fulcher fails badly, the message would be clear: It would be suicidal for any Republican candidate to challenge the Otter machine in the future. And Democrats challenging Otter will continue to be road kill.

So there you have it. Otter has the whole world – or at least Idaho’s world – in his hands.

But there is one – and only one – force that can knock out political kingdoms, trump the big-money establishment and make an inept media look foolish. That’s the voters.

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Idaho Malloy


Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Idaho scientists talk global wrming (Boise Statesman)
Reviewing Common Core (Lewiston Tribune)
Studying the Oso mudslide (Moscow News)
Not enough space for female jail inmates (Nampa Press Tribune)
Kimberly city administrator under review (TF Times News)
Wolf population holding about even (TF Times News)

School bomb investigation evidence (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Partisan battle over health reform in OR (Medford Tribune, Corvallis Gazette Times)
Financing Lane commission races (Eugene Register Guard)
Big money opposing GMO ban (Ashland Tidings)
Strike at Portland State averted (Portland Oregonian)
Veterans Administration wrongful death pay (Portland Oregonian)
Cherriot buses return to transit center (Salem Statesman Journal)

Mental illness and jail population (Everett Herald)
Management of aid on mudslide (Spokane Spokesman, Everett Herald)
Cowlitz River flushing out silt (Longview News)
Survivors of mudslide reflect (Longview News)
Nippon Paper sensors and air readings (Port Angeles News)
Microsoft plans for innovation (Seattle Times)
Traffic cams planned for Highway 195 (Spokane Spokesman)
C-sections reduced at PeaceHealth hospital (Vancouver Columbian)

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