Tommy Ahlquist, the 49-year-old medical doctor turned fabulously wealthy developer who wants to be Idaho’s next governor, lacks neither passion nor raw ambition nor confidence that he’s got the answers and should be Idaho’s governor.
He’s got all the answers, just ask him. He’s charming, articulate, intelligent. He’s also terribly arrogant and naïve about what it is to govern a state. He thinks it just takes leadership and a plan, sort of a blue print for progress. He could use a strong dose of humility.
He was peddling his formula like an old snake oil salesman last week in St. Maries as part of his “Visit all 44 Idaho counties in 44 days” tour. Let’s start with the fact that he has stated flatly he will spend whatever it takes of his fortune to be governor---“one dollar more than is necessary to win.”
That one you can take to the bank. He has already spent thousands of dollars on tv advertising in the Treasure Valley (the great state of Ada as he likes to say when outside the largest county). He has signs up everywhere, has hired top-notch staff, has sophisticated polling and intends to buy the govrnorship.
His basic pitch is he has ideas and the leadership ability to lead Idaho through improvements in education without costing more, achieving an Idaho based solutions to health care challenges, taking care of small business and oh yes tax reform. So he throws out simple solutions to complex challenges and while his tour is supposedly a listening tour he clearly isn’t listening much, he already has the answers, so just elect him.
Unfortunately, rather than provide real specifics, he loves to use gimmicks, such as 44 counties in 44 days or claiming that in the first100 days he’ll find $100 million of pork in the state budget that he’ll cut out. Count on it.
Another gimmick---he promised to disclose his wealth and makes much of demanding other candidates follow suit. Trouble is he’s too cute by half. Instead of truly disclosing how much he is worth or who his partners are in some of his ventures, he released the names of 25 businesses he owns and 29 investments he has. His disclosure was to say they are all worth more than $5000.
Somehow one suspects most Idahoans won’t see that as true transparency. As the AP pointed out, he also did not list his liabilities therefore it is impossible to determine his net worth.
Another gimmick is his trite phrase regarding education reform. He says he will create a “line of sight between Idaho kids and Idaho jobs.” What the heck does that mean? He talks about goals for education, about abolishing the department of education, and says it can be done by spending less money.
He fails to see that part of the problem is Idaho’s system of education is failing to produce enough graduates that have a real work ethic. Ask any job recruiter and they’ll tell you how hard it is to find kids today who know they have to be to work on time and to work hard. He said not a word about how he would instill such a work ethic. And of course he does not support the Common Core initiative---you know, that pesky interference by the Feds to usurp local control and try to measure how well our students will compete with the rest of the world.
He also pitched tax reform at the state level, though Idaho businesses appear fairly comfortable with Idaho’s pretty predictable balancd three-legged stool (income, sales and property taxes). He also conceded that until one knows what will happen with tax reform at the fedeal level it will be difficult to effect state reforms.
While he talked knowledgably about the challenges of health care and its reform (he is after all an m.d.), until asked about the role of the constantly rising costs of pharmaceuticals and the role they play in driving costs, he had not said a word. Reminded by the question he denounced the industry (to his credit) but admitted he had no answer.
Saying he didn’t necessarily have an answer was the most refreshing thing he said for it did show he has an inkling that there are some challenges that don’t have simple solutions.
The biggest challenge for Tommy Ahlquist when all is said and done is he has to overcome his own thinly disguised sense of entitlement to be crowned governor. After all he has invested $300 million in Idaho and the least Idahoans can do to show their apppreciation is to hand the governorship to him. Don’t bet on it, Tommy.