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Bujak’s role in the race

malloy CHUCK

In Idaho

John Bujak, the Libertarian Party candidate for governor, is making the effort to pull off the biggest political upset since Jesse “The Body” Ventura went from the wrestling ring to governor of Minnesota. But if he doesn’t win, he’d be fine if Democrat A.J. Balukoff did.

As Bujak sees it, four years of gridlock from a Democratic administration would be preferable to electing Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter to a third term in office. Bujak says eight years is long enough; 12 years invites more corruption.

“I’ve voted for Otter in the past and there are times that I’ve thought he was doing a good job,” said Bujak, a former Canyon County prosecutor. “But after so many years, being in government for so long and now running for a third term, he’s simply out of touch. And he has turned a blind eye to the corruption going on in his administration.”

Bujak says the controversies surrounding broadband contracts and the botched operation of a private prison system are examples of “cronyism and corruption” that have been part of Otter’s administration.

Although Bujak prefers Balukoff over Otter, that’s hardly an endorsement for the Democratic candidate. Bujak offers himself as a “conservative alternative” to Otter and a choice for disgruntled Republicans who can’t stomach voting for a Democrat. He’s also trying to appeal to independents that are fed up with the two major parties.

Bujak looks to Ventura’s campaign in 1998 as a “how to” guide for a third-party candidate to win a governor’s race. Bujak doesn’t have the flamboyance of the former star of the wildly popular World Wrestling Entertainment. But he has some of “the Body’s” flare in the courtroom and on the political stump. Bujak lashes out at the both parties that “serve special interests and … a party platform that is bigger than the state of Idaho.”

Televised debates were the “game changer” for Ventura’s campaign in 1998 and Bujak thinks the same thing could happen in Idaho this year. “He had about 10 percent (support) before the debates and ended up winning,” Bujak said.

Although he’s running on the Libertarian ticket, he doesn’t go “too far” down that party line. You won’t hear him talking about extreme positions of libertarians, such as closing public schools and opening the door for gambling, prostitution and legalization of marijuana. His views on issues are a mirror image of Sen. Russ Fulcher, who received almost 44 percent of the vote in his unsuccessful run for governor. Bujak says “no” to Common Core, wolves, Obamacare in any form, federal control of public lands and Medicaid expansion. Bujak calls those more traditional Republican stands, with a libertarian twist.

“If you like Fulcher on the issues, then you’d like me. I would not be running if he had won,” Bujak said. The difference is in personality. “I don’t know if Russ is as much of a fighter as I am.”

Of course, most of Fulcher’s fights have been within the relatively tame confines of the Legislature. Bujak has had to fight corruption charges from his time as prosecuting attorney, and he worked aggressively to convince a jury to clear him of those charges. On his website, he offers a lengthy description of “what happened” in Canyon County.

“I learned a lot about our government through my experiences,” he said. “Government is in the business of serving itself and the special interest groups that support politics as usual. The regular citizen does not matter to the government and as long as it remains politics as usual, the regular citizen will not have a voice.”

Along the way, he said he learned “that government is manipulated by a group of ‘Good Old Boys, consisting of career politicians, lobbyists and insiders who gained special benefits and favors from keeping the right people in power.”

Ventura used similar lines in his run for governor 16 years ago, and he caught fire during the campaign’s stretch run. Political experts, who viewed Ventura as a fringe candidate without a chance, stopped laughing as his following grew larger.

I’m not sure what kind of impact Bujak will have on this election, but at the moment he appears to be Balukoff’s best friend – and Otter’s worst nightmare.

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