Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher plans to remain in his position and continue weekly strategy meetings with Gov. Butch Otter while living a dual life that focuses on removing Otter from office.
Im just going to keep doing my job, the Meridian Republican said Thursday. Im here to work for the people. Im not here to be comfortable and Im not here to make it comfortable for others. Hes in the executive branch, Im in the legislative branch. Open discourse is healthy.
Otter declined comment on whether hell bar Fulcher from the weekly sessions he hosts in his office. Otter spokesman Jon Hanian said Otter was busy Thursday preparing for his State of the State Address, which will open the 2014 Legislature on Monday.
As an aside and as is his custom he prefers to speak directly to lawmakers who have questions instead of using the media as an intermediary, Hanian said.
Fulcher said he hasnt spoken with the governor since announcing in November his bid to deny Otter a third term. Frankly, I just havent had time, Fulcher said. Im going to try to do that.
The Legislatures top four GOP leaders are supporting Otter: Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill; House Speaker Scott Bedke; Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis; and House Majority Leader Mike Moyle.
Bedke said he worries about how the race will affect the relationship between the branches. Hill said he welcomes Fulchers decision to remain in leadership, but he said Otter controls whether hell continue to share his private thoughts about legislative strategy with Fulcher in the room.
Certainly, within our leadership team, I dont see a problem, Hill said. We have different points of view and thats good. As far as how awkward that might be for meetings with the governor, youre going to have to leave that up to those two. Im not really concerned about it.
Fulcher has one open ally in the eight-man GOP leadership, House Republican Caucus Chairman John Vander Woude. Both represent the same southwest Ada County district, and Vander Woude considers Fulcher a mentor.
Vander Woude recently told Otters campaign manager, Jayson Ronk, that hell be backing Fulcher.
He asked me if I was on Team Otter, Vander Woude said. I said, No, I gotta support my senator.
Vander Woude said hes curious to learn whether Otter will block Fulcher and him from the Thursday breakfasts he hosts for GOP leaders, which sometimes feature famed cinnamon rolls baked by Otter special assistant Claudia Simplot-Nally.
Im trying to imagine that one, whether theyll allow the senator to be there and if theyll still be upfront and tell you exactly whats going on, Vander Woude said. Or, if the senators not allowed to be there, whether Im allowed to be there.
Hill said thats Otters call: Its his meeting. Its on his turf. He invites whoever he wants to.
Asked how hed react to being uninvited, Fulcher said, Id just be disappointed. I dont know what else to say.
Bedke said hes concerned that Fulchers presence would compromise the effectiveness of the cooperation between Republicans, who have run the Legislature since 1961 and the held the governorship since 1995.
You want to have a good, candid conversation, Bedke said. You dont want somebody taking notes to play gotcha later on. And thats a two-way street that game could also apply to the governor.
But Bedke said Fulcher, as the challenger to the leader of the party, bears a burden.
Sen. Fulcher under-stands this changes things and I think he needs to act accordingly, Bedke said. I dont want this whole session to be dominated by a primary politics sideshow. We need to be about the peoples business. The primary will take care of itself.
The primary will be held May 20.
I realize this is going to take some getting used to for all of us, Fulcher said. Is it going to be awkward? Yeah. Is it going to be uncomfortable? Yeah. You know what? Thats life.
Two members of GOP leadership have yet to announce an endorsement. Senate Assistant Majority Leader Chuck Winder said he has decided but will keep silent until after the Legislature adjourns.
I just think its best to get though the session and try not to let that interfere, the Boisean said.
House Assistant Republican Leader Brent Crane said he wont decide until after adjournment. Crane said that wont affect his leadership duties, and he said he will not breach his vow of secrecy about leaderships dealings with Otter even if he backs Fulcher.
Whatever goes on in those meetings, stays in those meetings, Crane said.
Dan Popkey: 377-6438, Twitter: @IDS_politics