Taking heart from the success of tea party Republicans in Idaho and across the country, Sen. Russ Fulcher said Saturday morning he plans to end GOP Gov. Butch Otters 28-year run in high office.
The five-term state senators top issue is opposition to Otters decision to enact a state-run health insurance exchange in cooperation with President Obama.
"It was our governor that led the charge to put the Affordable Care Act voluntarily in the state of Idaho," Fulcher told more than 200 enthusiastic supporters at a campaign kick-off event Saturday morning at the Courtyard by Marriott -- not far from the Meridian farm where he grew up.
Fulcher emphasized Otter's role implementing the health care plan in an interview with the Statesman Friday before be began the three-city announcement tour.
There are no surprises in whats going on, said Fulcher, 51. A lot of us knew this was going to be a disaster from the get-go.
Fulcher said he wants to reform health care by cutting costs, win state control of federal lands, reduce Idahos dependancy on federal programs and improve education.
We have to reduce the tether to the federal government, Fulcher told the Statesman. Weve got to reduce that dependency. Its the single-biggest influx of money to the state and theyre bankrupt.
He cited the popularity of young tea party-affiliated politicians including Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador, and U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Marco Rubio, R-Florida.
Those are examples similar to what I think is about to happen in Idaho, Fulcher said. I think were at one of those points in history where its time for a change and I think people will respond to that.
Fulcher said he is undaunted by the advantages Otter, 71, has with 14 years as lieutenant governor, six years in Congress and seven years as governor. I believe Im going to win, Fulcher said.
Otter was unavailable for comment, but his campaign manager, Jayson Ronk, issued a one-sentence statement: The governor has a campaign plan in place that we intend to execute.
After a month-long exploratory campaign, Fulcher said its clear GOP voters are hungry for new blood. We are so fractured as a party that its difficult to imagine whats the base anymore. I can probably rattle off 10 different groups that once upon a time called themselves Republicans that dont any more. Theyre looking for a different path.
After eight years in the Senate, 23 years in technology and the last seven years in commercial real estate, Fulcher argued that hes the man to help right the ship.
Were in an information age, he said. I believe that weve got to have leadership that still has the values and heritage of our roots but also understands the industry and the vision for the future.
Fulcher said there is no organized slate of like-minded candidates. Its hard enough to manage my own campaign, much less try to get involved in somebody elses, he said. But its also fair to say we are in a philosophical divide in politics in Idaho.
He said candidates including Labrador, 2nd District congressional hopeful Bryan Smith, Rep. Lawerence Denney for secretary of state and Todd Hatfield for controller could bring an insurgent symbiosis.
When youve got solid contenders more than one it has a tendency to drive up the vote, get out the vote, Fulcher said. So that has the potential of just motivating people to the polls, which is probably the single biggest factor.
Dan Popkey: 377-6438, Twitter: @IDS_politics
For more on Fulchers campaign for governor, read Sundays Idaho Statesman.