Risch loses longtime spokesman, the classy Brad Hoaglun

After almost 30 years as a player in Idaho politics at the local, state and federal level, Republican Sen. Jim Risch’s communications director, Brad Hoaglun, has resigned and is looking for work.

Hoaglun and Risch’s press secretary, Suzanne Bottorff, both said Hoaglun was making the change for personal reasons.

“It was difficult to do, but it’s the right thing to do,” said Hoaglun, 54, who remains in his post as Meridian City Council President. Hoaglun said he plans to run for re-election in November; the filing deadline for city elections is Sept. 6.

Hoaglun was No. 3 on Risch’s salary ladder, making $120,000 a year, trailing only Chief of Staff John Sandy at $169,457, and Administrative Director Kristine Hanisch at $130,000. Risch faces re-election in 2014, but no challengers on either the Republican or Democratic side have emerged.

Hoaglun offered this explanation:

“When you’re doing things and you’re into it and you’re working hard and you think you’re doing a good job — and I think I was — sometimes that just takes over your life and your priorities get skewed. For me, things like God and family were starting to take a back seat and getting to the point were I had to make a change.

“It’s nothing like Sen. Risch and I don’t see eye-to-eye. He’s disappointed that I left. It was hard for me to leave, but it was just something I had to do.”

 

Brad Hoaglun

I’ve known Hoaglun since 1986, when he was working for then-Boise Mayor Dirk Kempthorne and I was a wet-behind-the-ears City Hall reporter. Probably better than any flack I’ve ever dealt with, Hoaglun withheld anger or impatience with questions, no matter how critical or potentially damaging. While loyal to his boss, he behaved as the best public servants do, putting the public interest at least on par with his patron.

He also wasn’t keen for the spotlight. Hoaglun typically replied to requests for information within minutes, sometimes even while on vacation. Wednesday, not having a reply to an email Tuesday, I mentioned to my boss the oddity of Hoaglun’s silence. About an hour later, I got a call from Bottorff, who said Hoaglun was gone and that she was monitoring his email. Bottorff said she thought Hoaglun would have called by now. His last day with Risch was July 12.

When I reached Hoaglun, I asked why he hadn’t put out a news release on such an important staff change. Over the phone, I could almost see him cringe. “I left,” he said. “No story.”

Hoaglun has held an eye-popping array of jobs: assistant chief clerk of the Idaho House; administrative officer for Lt. Gov. Dave Leroy during Leroy’s heartbreaking loss to Democrat Cecil Andrus in 1986; four years in Washington, D.C., as assistant to the U.S. Nuclear Waste Negotiator under Leroy and former Democratic Rep. Richard Stallings; director of constituent and media services in the Idaho Senate; running his own lobbying and association management firm; directing government relations for the American Cancer Society in Idaho; Risch’s spokesman during his seven-month governorship; and, for two years, serving as Idaho Controller Donna Jones’ chief deputy. He reunited with Risch when Risch became a senator in 2009.

Hoaglun also ran his family’s Meridian dairy farm, owned a candy store and deli in Boise, and was territory manager for Federal-Mogul Corp., a Michigan-based auto parts supplier. He graduated from Meridian High School and the College of Idaho.

A Meridian City Councilman since 2008, Hoaglun also has held key posts in the Idaho Republican Party, from precinct committeeman to Region IV chairman. When now-Congressman Raul Labrador first ran for the Legislature in 2006, Hoaglun was among those who counseled the candidate.

Only this week has Hoaglun begun to put out feelers for another job. “I’m just taking some time off. I’m starting to get the word out that I’m looking.”

Hoaglun and his wife, Chandos, have two adult children, a daughter engaged to be married in November, and a son who works at the West Boise YMCA. He has been active in the lay leadership of Valley Shepherd Nazarene Church.

Another federal job is unlikely, Hoaglun said, saying he’s casting a wide net, including local and state government, corporate communications, education and non-profits. “I’m pretty much open to anything,” Hoaglun said. “I enjoy working with people and making a difference. We’ll see where it goes.”

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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