Citing Gov. Butch Otters decision to establish a state-run health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act, Senate GOP Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher says he filed paperwork Saturday to begin raising money for a race against Otter in the May 2014 primary.
By the next election, Governor Otter will have already served two terms in office, and I am concerned that he has lost touch with the will of the people of Idaho, Fulcher said in a written statement to the Statesman Saturday. His regrettable decision to voluntarily thrust Idaho into Obamacare exemplifies this.
Fulcher, a five-term lawmaker from Meridian, is a leading voice for the GOPs most conservative wing. He drove much of the debate in the Senate in opposition to the state exchange, saying Idaho was surrendering sovereignty to the federal puppeteer.
While just 11 of the Senates 28 Republicans voted against Otters plan in March, opposition was stronger in the House, where 29 of 57 Republicans voted "no" on the state exchange.
Fulcher, 51, told the Statesman Saturday that he spoke with Otter, 71, on the phone Thursday, informing him of his decision to explore the race. Fulcher, the No. 4 Republican in the Senate, also said he spoke to his fellow leaders and wrote all 27 of his GOP colleagues about his plans Saturday.
"We had a good conversation," Fulcher said of his chat with Otter, which he said lasted about 30 minutes. Fulcher declined to say whether Otter tried to talk him out of making the race or describe other details of their talk.
A former Micron executive who now is in the commercial real estate business, Fulcher has both a bachelors and an MBA from Boise State University. He is married to Kara Fulcher and has three children.
Fulcher said he filed his campaigns Appointment and Certification of a Political Treasurer electronically with the Secretary of States Office on Saturday. That step is required under Idahos Sunshine Law before a candidate can begin raising money.
Fulcher said he hasnt decided to run but to explore the prospects of a challenge because of support hes received from all over Idaho.
In his statement, he said he will seek wise counsel and determine if I am the right person to help Idaho grow while preserving its rich heritage and traditions. I am confident that should I run, I would be well-positioned to win, especially with the help of qualified staff and the assistance of the grassroots community.
Otters campaign manager, Jayson Ronk, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday afternoon. Democrat A.J. Balukoff has said he will announce next month whether he'll run for governor. Balukoff is a Boise businessman and president of the Boise School Board. Perennial losing candidate Harley Brown has said he is running in the GOP primary, but poses no serious threat to Otter.
In his two earlier runs, Otter has easily defeated GOP challengers. He won a four-way primary in 2006 with 70 percent of the vote and 2010's six-way race with 54 percent. But a challenge from Fulcher would present a better-known opponent who has deep connections in the party organization.
Fulchers ambition for higher office is not new. In December 2010, he attempted to leap from his No. 4 leadership post to be the top leader, Senate president pro tem. He lost that closed-door race in the GOP caucus to Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg.
Fulcher returned to leadership in February 2012, after the resignation of then-Caucus Chairman John McGee, R-Caldwell, in the wake of a charge that McGee sexually harassed his female Senate secretary. McGee pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace and served 39 days in jail.
Fulchers full statement to the Statesman follows:
"By now, you may have heard some chatter from folks who have asked me to challenge Governor Otter in the Republican primary next year. To date, I've simply been honored to represent my district in the Idaho State Senate and not aimed to use that position to posture for a higher office.
"But for some time now, countless people from all over Idaho have contacted me and encouraged me to run. I'm writing today to let you know that I am now prayerfully considering these requests.
"By the next election, Governor Otter will have already served two terms in office, and I am concerned that he has lost touch with the will of the people of Idaho. His regrettable decision to voluntarily thrust Idaho into Obamacare exemplifies this.
"Today, I am submitting the appropriate paperwork to begin the exploratory process. I will treat this process with the utmost seriousness and humility it requires. From listening to citizens from across the state to meeting with key community activists, I plan to take this time to seek wise counsel and determine if I am the right person to help Idaho grow while preserving its rich heritage and traditions. I am confident that should I run, I would be well-positioned to win, especially with the help of qualified staff and the assistance of the grassroots community.
"I look forward to talking with you more as the process progresses."