Fulcher plans Idaho 'listening tour' to test challenge to Otter

dpopkey@idahostatesman.comOctober 21, 2013 

Idaho Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher of Meridian says he’ll spend about two weeks traveling the state to seek “wise counsel” on whether to run against fellow Republican Gov. Butch Otter next year.

Fulcher said Monday afternoon he’s still organizing the trip, but expects it to begin next week. Fulcher said his website will publish a schedule in the next day or two.

Meanwhile, Otter’s campaign issued a statement Monday afternoon in response to Fulcher’s announcement Saturday that he’s exploring the race. Said Jayson Ronk, Otter’s campaign manager:

“The Governor is focused on continuing to do the right thing for the people of Idaho, regardless of the political field ahead. His priorities for the coming year – and we hope for the next five years – are improving education, encouraging economic opportunity and continuing to achieve the kind of stability and predictability in Idaho that we don’t get from Washington.”

Fulcher said he’s mindful that a primary against Otter — who has held statewide or federal office without interruption since 1987 — will divide the Republican Party. But Fulcher said his aim is to unite the GOP.

“The reality is those in my party are split,” Fulcher said in an interview with KIDO’s Kevin Miller, citing the formation of tea party groups, the Republican Liberty Caucus, Pachyderms, Constitutionalists, Reagan Republicans and Nine-Twelvers. (Audio of the 8 a.m. interview is archived on the KIDO link above.)

“The list goes on and on and on,” said Fulcher, who works in commercial real estate. “If you talk to those people and ask about the genesis of their organization they will say something like, ‘I didn’t leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me.’

“Here’s my fear: It will be the ability or the leadership of this state to pull those folks together that’s going to dictate the future of our state. Right now, they’re not being pulled together, they’re being driven apart. On thing that I hope to be able to do is to find ways to pull the conservative people in the state of Idaho together.”

Fulcher said the issue that “pushed me to the point of trying to do more” was Otter’s support for establishing a state-based insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act. But he said he won’t decide on making the race until after his listening tour.

“I’ve got to sit down with a lot of folks and get some wise counsel, because I just have to make sure that I’m reading it correctly,” Fulcher told Miller.

Added Fulcher: “Is the thought process that I’m going through one that resonates with the people of Idaho?”

Fulcher electronically filed paperwork with the Secretary of State allowing him to raise money for the race Saturday and the paperwork was processed at 8:02 a.m. Monday. Fulcher’s campaign treasurer is Julie Johnson of Boise. Johnson told me she is homemaker and a friend of the family and took the job at Fulcher’s request.

Fulcher had about $12,000 in his campaign account as of Dec. 31, 2012, the last period for which he was required to file a Sunshine Report.

Otter, who had to file a mid-year report, had about $129,000 on June 30.

Democrat A.J. Balukoff, president of the Boise School Board, has said he plans to announce next month whether he’ll run for governor.

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