Election Central

Fulcher challenge to Otter: It fits on a bumper sticker

It’s only happened twice since 1904, but Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher’s prospects of unseating an Idaho governor in his party primary are helped considerably by his simple message.

In a column in Wednesday’s Statesman, I explore Fulcher’s chances against two-term Gov. Butch Otter in a conversation with political scientist Jim Weatherby and by remembering the last time a sitting Idaho governor had his chair pulled out from under him — 1966.

Fulcher, a Meridian Republican, says his opposition to Otter’s push to establish a state-based health exchange under the Affordable Care Act would be his “signature issue” should he decide to make the race after an upcoming statewide “listening tour.”

“We’re trying to prop it up,” Fulcher said. “Not another dime, not another man hour should go into this thing.”

Fulcher’s Saturday announcement that he’s exploring the race was brilliantly timed. It coincided with intense media focus on the technology failures of HealthCare.gov, the federal platform supporting Otter’s Your Health Idaho exchange in the first year as the state works to build its own site. Fulcher got an assist Monday when one of Otter’s appointees to the Idaho exchange board, Frank Chan, was pressured into cancelling a $180 per hour no-bid tech consulting contract worth up to $375,000.

Fulcher’s case against the exchange is easily branded. It took me about two minutes to come up with a slogan — “No Obamacare, No Ottercare.”

“That’s true,” said Fulcher, adding that the personal nature of health care is capable of capturing any voter’s attention. “It’s going to be the signature issue for the whole deal.”

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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Posted in Election Central, Idaho Politics