State Politics

Recovery from surgery, ‘vigorous’ infection sidelines Gov. Otter for nearly 1 month

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, speaking, and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, right, after touring flooding in the Weiser area in February 2017.
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, speaking, and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, right, after touring flooding in the Weiser area in February 2017. Idaho Statesman file

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter will continue recovering at home for at least another week following two surgeries to address a ruptured disk in his back and a subsequent infection that developed after the second surgery.

“During this time he will continue doing state business and working closely with his office,” said spokesman Jon Hanian. “He will be back to work at the Capitol as soon as possible.”

Otter, 75, was released from the hospital July 27 after the surgeries and treatment for the infection. He first underwent surgery on July 7 to treat a bulging disk, and he returned to the hospital on July 14 for another surgery to address the same disk. The day he was released from the hospital after the second surgery, his fever spiked and he was readmitted.

Otter has continued to work throughout his hospitalization and recovery, Hanian said. Lt. Gov. Brad Little had to take over as acting governor on four days when Otter was undergoing surgery or other procedures that required some level of anesthesia. Otter will have to miss an Aug. 11 “Capital for a Day” visit to Stanley; Little, a 2018 candidate for governor, will fill in for him there.

While recovering at home, Otter has been talking to or meeting regularly with staff.

“He is doing what he can from home,” Hanian said. “We are keeping him apprised of what is going on. He is frequently checking in and he has been making decisions” while in the hospital and at home.

Doctors are being extra cautious about letting the governor fully return to work due to the nature of the infection, which Hanian said was “significant and vigorous.”

“It is really up to his doctors and when they say he can return,” Hanian said.

Otter is in his third term as governor; he doesn’t plan to seek a fourth. Next year will be his last year in office.

This is the longest he has been out of the office due to surgery or illness since taking the governor’s post in January 2007. He had hip surgeries in January 2008 and January 2015, each of which required two to three weeks of recovery time at home. In 2009 he had two shoulder surgeries. He also was hospitalized in April 2010 for a couple of days because of the flu.

Otter, a longtime horseman, rancher and outdoorsman, has been known to joke that if he has any more body parts replaced he will be younger than his wife, who is 25 years his junior.

Rumors have circulated for years about his health — a challenger raised the issue during an election debate in 2010 — and spread again this July. Any speculation that Otter may have to step down due to health reasons remains unwarranted, Hanian said.

Hanian said the governor is eager to return to work and his active lifestyle.

“He is 75 years old and he has the vigor and energy of someone half his age,” Hanian said.

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell