Popkey: Balukoff campaign says NRA issue prompted largest voter response so far

dpopkey@idahostatesman.comApril 18, 2014 

Democratic gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff, duck hunting near Nampa in fall 2012.

PROVIDED BY MIKE LANZA

Democrat A.J. Balukoff's snubbing of the NRA's candidate questionnaire has generated the heaviest response of any issue since he announced his bid for governor in December, says campaign spokesman Mike Lanza.

Balukoff's April 10 Facebook post has generated about 500 "likes" and about 100 largely positive comments.

"(T)hat post has generated more responses than anything we've done yet, by far," Lanza said. "My take is that people found it refreshing that A.J. said he wouldn't let his position on anything be dictated by a special-interest group and that he offered up a moderate position that respects Second Amendment and individual liberties."

That's not to say Lanza is blithely unmindful of how a snit with the NRA might shape Balukoff's image in gun-loving Idaho.

After my story ran Saturday, I returned to work Monday morning to an email from Lanza offering to provide photos for future stories. "We would have happily provided the shot of him hunting that ran with our blog post about his letter to the NRA, to accompany your story," Lanza wrote.

I said I'd like to see the hunting shot and asked about the reaction to the NRA story, which also ran on the AP wire, in the Spokesman-Review and on Boise State Radio.

The image arrived an hour later, depicting Balukoff and another man with four Canada geese at their feet. Two youngsters knelt below, each clutching a mallard by the neck. Balukoff wore insulated woodland camouflage coveralls and a Fudd hat.

But when I asked for the names of the other three people for a caption, Lanza said Balukoff thought the father of the children would rather not have his kids in the paper. (The father is not the other hunter, but took the photo — which remains on Balukoff's campaign Facebook page.)

Instead, Lanza offered a new photo of Balukoff hunting solo.

I shared both images with Statesman outdoor writer Roger Phillips, whose expertise informs this post.

Phillips was impressed with Balukoff's donning Simms fishing waders for duck hunting in snow, demonstrating an uncommon heartiness. Most folks wear insulated camo for such a hunt. Taken near Nampa in the fall of 2012, those are five drake mallards in Balukoff's warm hands.

Phillips noted Balukoff's choice of green camo for the goose hunt isn't quite customary. Birds see color and most hunters would choose a marshgrass pattern for hunting in a stubble field.

For any skeptics who might wonder if the campaign asked we not publish the goose photo because of some violation of game laws, fret no more. The limit for Canada geese is four per hunter. For ducks, it's seven.

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