Capitol & State

Otter shares rarest of real estate with heir apparent, Brad Little (w/ video)

Gov. Butch Otter's Ford F-150 pickup isn't cluttered with political messages. Just two candidates are worthy of bumper stickers: Otter himself and Lt. Gov. Brad Little.

As Otter, 72, makes what his wife says is his last campaign with her by his side, he's keeping his sidekick close at hand. Otter appointed Little lieutenant governor in 2009, as Jim Risch left for the U.S. Senate.

"He's done a tremendous job, I think, for the state of Idaho," Otter said last week when asked about his careful truck decorations. "He's done a tremendous job for me in economic development, in selection of important people to serve on councils and commissions."

Little reciprocates on his GMC pickup, displaying the same two names.

The choice of Little, 60, has been popular and likely strengthened Otter as a candidate. In Idaho, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor often run as a team, but are not formally running mates and have their own places on the ballot.

Little has outpolled Otter in the three elections in which they've appeared together.

In 2010, Otter won the GOP primary with 55 percent of the vote; Little carried 68 percent.

In the 2010 general election, Otter won with 59 percent; Little had 68 percent.

In last month's GOP primary, Otter won with 51 percent; Little carried 67 percent.

At the post-election Republican unity rally, Otter's principal opponent, Sen. Russ Fulcher, offered an obligatory endorsement of Otter, saying, "It is fitting, it is proper, it is necessary for me to congratulate Gov. Butch Otter, first lady Lori (Otter), the Otter campaign team for their hard work and dedication."

Little's foe, Idaho County Commissioner Jim Chmelik, offered a call to arms: "We're here today to unite this party and bring it together because the Democrats aren't going to battle the way these guys (other candidates) behind us are going to battle. I encourage you to go forth with a stout heart and a good cheer and make sure we keep this state in Republican hands."

Asked last week about his plans for succeeding Otter on the 2018 ballot, Little said, "I am concentrating on 2014, additional travel and listening. Doing my day job of growing opportunity. 2018 is too far away and presumptuous."

Little faces former Democratic Sen. Bert Marley in November; Otter faces Boise School Board President A.J. Balukoff.

While those campaigns must be won to make a passing of the torch possible, it's now clear Otter is highly unlikely to seek a fourth term. Were he to do so, he'd be without his first lady.

After the unity rally Lori Otter ruled out seeking a fourth term, saying, "I will just say this: I am not running for first lady again. I do not know what the governor is doing."