Fulcher working on run vs. Otter

The Republican state senator says the two-term governor has ‘lost touch’ with Idahoans.

dpopkey@idahostatesman.comOctober 20, 2013 

Citing Gov. Butch Otter’s decision to establish a state-run health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act, Senate GOP Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher said he filed paperwork Saturday to begin raising money for a race 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. “His regrettable decision to voluntarily thrust Idaho into Obamacare exemplifies this.”

Fulcher, a five-term lawmaker from Meridian, is a leading voice for the GOP’s 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.”

Though just 11 of the Senate’s 28 Republicans voted against Otter’s plan in March, opposition was stronger in the House, where 29 of 57 Republicans voted no to the state-run marketplace.

Fulcher, 51, told the Statesman 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 to describe other details of their talk.

A former Micron executive who now is in the commercial real estate business, Fulcher has both a bachelor’s and an MBA from Boise State University. He is married to Kara Fulcher and has three children.

Fulcher said he filed his campaign’s Appointment and Certification of a Political Treasurer electronically with the Secretary of State’s Office on Saturday. That step is required under Idaho’s Sunshine Law before a candidate may begin raising money.

Fulcher said he wanted to explore a challenge to the governor because of support he’s 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 grass-roots community.”

Otter’s campaign manager, Jayson Ronk, did not 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 he 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.

In his fundraising, if Fulcher could tap out-of-state money sympathetic to candidates challenging establishment Republicans, Otter likely would face a formidable foe.

Fulcher’s ambition for higher office is not new. In December 2010, he attempted to leap from his No. 4 post to be in the top leadership position in the Senate. 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, following a charge that McGee sexually harassed his female Senate secretary. McGee pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace and served 39 days in jail.

Dan Popkey: 377-6438, Twitter: @IDS_politics

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