The last Idaho governor’s race that was competitive was when Butch Otter beat Jerry Brady in 2006.
Otter’s 53 to 44 percent margin set the mark for a Democrat in the 21st Century. Brady was leading, polls showed, two weeks before the election. But Otter successfully brought GOP and conservative independent voters back to his column by election day.
Democratic Boise businessman A.J. Balukoff hopes to change the outcome this time and Brady tells me he thinks Balukoff can do it.
“His greatest obstacle is the supposedly foregone conclusion that our lopsided politics makes that impossible,” Brady said. “There are more Democrats and persuadable Independents and Republicans in this state than is commonly appreciated.
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Brady points to the defeat of the Students Come First laws, the so-called Luna laws, which Otter supported, as proof.
“If all the Democrats vote, (Balukoff) would win,” Brady said. “If all those who voted against the Luna laws vote for him, he would win.”
I’ll be talking to both Balukoff and Otter this week and hear what they think. Political operatives on both sides of the aisle say Otter goes into the campaign with a big lead.
Balukoff’s wave of television, web and radio ads will cut into that lead but how much is one of the big questions for everyone right now. Idaho political expert Randy Stapilus the impact of money on campaigns has dropped in part because of the declining television viewership.
Otter is strongest in rural Idaho, where voters relate to his genuine cowboy lifestyle and the familiarity that comes from 40 years in politics.
His long relationship to voters has a downside, Brady said.
“People are experiencing a measure of Otter fatigue,” Brady said.