Boise School District Board President A.J. Balukoff said in July that he’s considering running for governor as a Democrat against two-term Republican Gov. Butch Otter next year.
Balukoff tells me he’s expecting to make a decision in mid-November, after he returns from a goose hunt in Canada.
“It’ll be peaceful and Susie and I will have had plenty of discussion by then,” Balukoff said of his wife, who has “yellow-lighted” his consideration of the race. “I’ll come back and be ready to make a decision one way or another.”
Balukoff was recruited by Democrats in part because of his business chops. He ran his own accounting firm and has been on the board of St. Luke’s Treasure Valley. Since 1998, he’s been part-owner of Century Link Arena, the Idaho Steelheads and the Grove Hotel. His seven-partner group, WC/WLDC Idaho LLC, owns all three businesses together with the J.R. Simplot Trust.
Balukoff has been on the school board for 16 years and helped defeat the “Students Come First” school reforms at the polls in November, which were strongly supported by Otter and his ally, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna.
Balukoff said he’s mindful of Otter’s personal charm, but said he sees vulnerability on performance.
“Governor Otter is really popular personally,” Balukoff said. “He’s charismatic and people like him. But they really can’t point to anything substantial he’s done as governor.”
David Williams, Maryland-based consultant who managed the campaign against Students Come First, said Balukoff “has an excellent profile.”
“But part of the challenge for Democrats in Idaho is just getting over the fact that you have a certain burden that comes with that party affiliation,” Williams said. “Having said that, whether it’s Cecil Andrus or any one of a number of others, Democrats have succeeded. It can be done.”