"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

A fourth? A fifth?

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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  1. slfisher said:

    I’m more worried about the press people whose limited exposure to Sen. Fulcher has given them the impression that he’s “bright, articulate and full of ideas.” Sure — if your idea is to turn Idaho into a libertarian theocracy. It might be a good idea to go to some of those town halls, particularly ones in front of friendly audiences, and watch the crazy come out. Sen. Fulcher has been my Senator for as long as he’s been in office and I’ve been to a number of his town halls.

    April 7, 2014

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