Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate A.J. Balukoff won’t apply for membership into the tea party and there’s no chance of him being a featured speaker at an Idaho Freedom Foundation conference. But if wins the governor’s seat in November, the most conservative Idahoans could be the ones who will help put him there.
As Idaho Freedom Foundation Director Wayne Hoffman sees it, electing Balukoff over Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter makes sense from a conservative’s perspective. It may be one way to put the Republicans Party on track.
For instance, Hoffman says, if a Gov. Balukoff were to push for Medicaid expansion, it would be dead on arrival in a Republican-dominated Legislature. If Otter were to propose Medicaid expansion, lawmakers would look more closely at the potential cost savings for counties. A Balukoff administration that proposes repeal of sales-tax exemptions likely would go nowhere in the Legislature. If Otter proposed the same thing, legislators could view it as a sound way to raise needed revenue.
Conservatives probably wouldn’t like him any better than two recent failed candidates, Jerry Brady and Keith Allred. But Otter is no beacon for conservative principles either. Otter’s poor showing in last month’s Republican primary election, in which almost half the people voted for someone else, makes him prime for election defeat.
“Butch is vulnerable,” Hoffman said. “He won against a no-name and under-funded candidate with slightly more than 50 percent of the vote. You have to think that’s problematic.”
Losing Ada, Canyon and Kootenai counties also is problematic for the governor – along with a disastrous Republican convention over the weekend that failed to elect a party chairman or approve a platform. “We have hit bottom,” said Congressman Raul Labrador, one of Idaho’s leading conservatives.
The Democratic challenger, as with Hoffman, hears dissatisfaction in the conservative ranks.
Balukoff’s philosophy overall is far different from Sen. Russ Fulcher, who took 44 percent of the vote in the GOP primary. But much of Balukoff’s rhetoric is the same as Fulcher’s.
“A lot of people think Otter has been in for a long time and not a lot of show for his tenure,” Balukoff said. “People recognize that our education system is not where it should be and per capita income is at the bottom of the nation. They are upset with the lack of accountability and cronyism in the governor’s office. People are dissatisfied with the lack of leadership and are ready for a change.”
Balukoff, a member of the Boise School Board, is not a typical Democratic candidate. He has never run for a partisan office, and he’s smart enough to know that Republicans will continue to hold the upper hand in the legislative process. I’d expect his first State of the State address to focus on education, rather than tax increases.
Balukoff, of course, welcomes support from wherever he gets it. If it’s from tea party conservatives, or followers of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, then so be it.
But conservatives should be careful what they wish for. Idahoans elected Andrus to a four-year hitch in 1970 and Democrats held the office for the next 24 years.Share on Facebook