Election Central

Idaho’s Otter: I’ll quit when I’m dead (w/ video)

Though he turns 72 on May 3, Gov. Butch Otter hasn’t slowed the rough-and-tumble lifestyle he began growing up on a Canyon County farm. This week, he’s nursing a strained back injured Sunday in a ranch wreck in Star.

Otter is building a storage room in his barn.

“I lifted this beam over the top in order to put it in place and I shoulda just waited until I had some help,” Otter said after his meeting with the Statesman editorial board Wednesday. “You know, I’ve done it before.”

Indeed he has, often on horseback as he practices and performs as a team roper.

Ailments kept Otter out of the office for weeks during the 2008 and 2009 legislative sessions and his vigorous lifestyle has been sustained by surgeries on both shoulders and an artificial ankle, knee and hip.

His office said Otter didn’t miss any work following Sunday afternoon’s mishap, but his gouged right hand bore bright red iodine dressings Wednesday.

So, I asked, “When are you gonna learn?”

“When I’m dead!” he replied joyously. “I’ll quit all this stuff. I’ll quit ridin’. I’m still ridin’ horses, still ropin’. I’m just a little stiff.”

Otter’s treatment? Aleve. “Two in the mornin’, two at night’.”

As Otter entered the room for the editorial board meeting he apologized in advance for his discomfort, saying he might not be able to sit through the hour. He stood up part way through to stretch, continuing to answer questions.

As the interview concluded, Otter twisted his face in agony as he rose from his chair, depicted in the video below.

The video begins with Otter recalling the “painful lesson in time, in talent and treasure” he learned from voters’ rejection of 2011′s “Students Come First” K-12 reforms and the subsequent changes pushed by a task force of his creation.

Otter notes consultations on reform with Florida Govs. Rick Scott and Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. After slamming his hands on the table to mark the end of the talk, he shows considerable pain as he unfolds to stand.

Otter’s spokesman told me Thursday afternoon the chief executive is feelin’ his oats again. “He said his back is much better today,” Jon Hanian reported.

FYI, Otter wouldn’t be pinned down on the question of whether 2014 is his last campaign. Were he to win re-election to a third term this year and seek and win a fourth term in 2018, he would celebrate his 80th birthday in office on May 3, 2022.

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