Most folks can complete the ellipse in the title with the correct “try, try again.” The latest to utilize the thought that generated the well-worn phrase is A. J. Balukoff, the multi-millionaire businessman and developer, as well as long-time member of the Boise School Board.
Though soundly defeated in 2014 by Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter in a quest for the governorship, he is letting the word spread that he intends to formally declare a renewed effort in Idaho Falls on January 9th to secure the Democratic nomination. Following that he will take a state-wide swing hitting Twin Falls, Boise, Lewiston and Coeur d’Alene, finishing the announcement tour on January 13th.
He even has a primary opponent, State Representative Paulette Jordan (D-Plummer), who will generate interest and help to keep Democrats and independents home instead of watching many defect to the GOP temporarily in order to vote for the most rational Republican.
Balukoff welcomes a primary for he knows it will generate interest and, as the previous nominee he has invaluable personal relationships built up from his campaigning previously. While welcoming her candidacy, he is NOT taking her lightly.
He recognizes she is tall, an excellent speaker, and colorful. No one would use these phrases to describe A.J. Presumably she will be well-financed if gaming tribes across the nation line up and pony up. That is a big question mark right now. A.J.’s timing may be excellent in that a blue tidal wave may be forming that will sweep across the nation, though, and even Idaho could see a Democrat elected state-wide and perhaps to Congress.
It is clear also that Balukoff learned a lot from his first venture. His answers to questions during a 30-minute chat were crisp and on point.
One won’t hear phony budget cuts in spending nor irrational tax cuts at the state level to mimic federal cuts coming from his mouth. He clearly sees all three of the leading Republican candidates as pandering to a traditional Republican animus towards taxes regardless of the fact that no one, not even the businesses in the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry (IACI), are clamoring for tax relief.
The fact is business in Idaho is satisfied with the balanced three legged stool of state taxes (sales, income and property) and would rather see more investment in public education and college education.
A.J. remains passionately committed to better funding for education and teachers. He knows the key is expanding the economic pie and that the old Andrus formula still applies: “first you have to make a living, then you have to have a living worthwhile.”
Asked if he had a poll in the field, he said yes. Asked if the comprehensive statewide poll that probably cost $40,000 was based patially on deciding the degree of challenge represented by Jordan, and that it might provide a rational excuse not to spend $3 million of his own,” he said no, he was committed to the race and repeated he welcomed Paulette into the fray.
Balukoff is a student of Idaho history and knows in recent times several Idaho governors tried and failed to win the governorship in their initial run. Among this group one can find future four-term Idaho governor Cecil Andrus who lost both the primary and the general election in 1966; John Evans; Phil Batt; Butch Otter, C. Ben Ross; and C.A. Bottolfsen.
While he appears to be a much-improved candidate than he was four years ago, A.J. share the same challenge that faces Tommy Ahlquist - both are multi-millionaires, developers, and members of the LDS Church who must overcome the appearance of trying to buy their way into high public office.
Both also know and like each other with Ahlquist actually making the maximum personal contribution one could make to Balukoff in 2014. Both may have selected the party they are members of out of political convenience.
Neither has a particularly good and persuasive answer as to why Idahoans should entrust their future and those of their children and grandchildren to a political novice with no governmental experience but nonetheless thinks he can and should start at the top.