Election Central

Fulcher reprises ‘out of touch’ theme in op-ed blast v. Otter

Since October, Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher has been saying Gov. Butch Otter has lost touch with Idahoans after a political career that began in 1972. Fulcher seeks to deny Otter a third term as governor in the May 20 GOP primary.

“Governor Otter is out of touch with the priorities, values, and expectations of Idahoans,” the Meridian Republican said in an editorial submitted in reply to an op-ed from Otter last week. “In the month of May, people will have a chance to elect someone who is in tune with what they expect in a governor.”

Fulcher cites Otter’s focus on re-election at the expense of other priorities, troubles at the scandal-plagued privately-operated prison, legal and financial challenges for the Idaho Education Network and Fulcher’s top campaign issue — the state-run health insurance exchange under Obamacare.

Otter’s op-ed, issued by his office Feb. 24 and published Feb. 25 in the Statesman,  took stake with the Legislature nearing the close of the 2014 session, saying, “For me, and I believe for most legislators, the most important issues are education, workforce development, economic opportunity, and responsibly fulfilling the other proper roles of government within the people’s means. The work of addressing those issues can be bruising, but it is all the more necessary for its difficulty.”

Fulcher’s op-ed is dated Friday, but I didn’t receive the email until Sunday afternoon. It follows:

Governor Otter is Out of Touch

Governor Otter, usually silent during the legislative session, recently sent an opinion piece to Idaho’s newspapers encouraging lawmakers to focus on the priorities of their constituents, including being accountable and transparent.

The question I have for Idahoans is this: Has this governor in his two terms of office represented your priorities, been accountable, or established a history of transparency?

Last fall in a plea to a lobbyist group, Governor Otter indicated his main priority for the 2014 legislative session was “Gettin’ me re-elected.”  As I’ve traveled the state meeting with thousands of Idahoans, I’ve learned that their priorities are greatly different.

A senate colleague and I drafted a bill this session to focus on a very real priority of Republican and Democrat Idahoans alike – ending the regressive sales tax on food.  Governor Otter has been silent on this issue.  He was, however, willing to consider a proposal by House Speaker Scott Bedke to eliminate portions of the grocery tax credit in a move that would increase the tax burden on Idaho’s middle class families.  In the mean time, my bill is not even slated to get a hearing.

Governor Otter is also failing Idahoans’ demands that their elected officials be accountable.  Only after I demanded that Idaho’s privately run prison be investigated for overcharging taxpayers, understaffing, and mismanagement did Governor Otter grudgingly consent to an investigation.  He also fails to take any responsibility for the millions of dollars that Idahoans must now come up with for unanticipated costs and legal fees after his Department of Administration director, and best friend, entered into a highly controversial internet service contact for Idaho’s schools.

And when the Idaho Obamacare Exchange Director awarded a six-figure contract to a member of the exchange board that Otter’s staff knew about in advance, the governor was silent.  Even after a private law firm investigated after the contract was cancelled, their findings were kept private.  Governor Otter was silent again.

However, what the Governor has done this legislative session is stand firmly alongside President Obama in supporting the Obamacare Exchange and Common Core education standards in Idaho – things that are mostly unwanted in Idaho, and devastating to our future.

Governor Otter is out of touch with the priorities, values, and expectations of Idahoans. In the month of May, people will have a chance to elect someone who is in tune with what they expect in a governor.

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