Community Blog: The EDge

The unspoken issue (so far) in the governor’s race

As expected, Sen. Russ Fulcher launched his challenge to Gov. Butch Otter Saturday.

And not surprisingly, the focal point of the announcement was the state-run health care exchange — which, says Fulcher, helps “to set up the disaster that is Obamacare.”

RussellFulcher82
State Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian

What was lacking in the coverage of Saturday’s statewide barnstorming trip is the same thing that is all but missing on Fulcher’s campaign website: any mention of education.

The campaign website’s home page features a nearly 16-minute video clip of Fulcher debating against the health exchange bill. A “Learn About Russ” page includes this brief mention of K-12. “Federal policies in the areas of health care, education and the environment are stripping decisions from Idahoans and placing them in the hands of government bureaucrats, and Idaho’s current governor is not willing to stand in opposition.”

That’s the extent of it. And on Saturday, the storyline focused almost entirely on the health exchange issue. (Here are links to coverage from the Idaho Statesman’s Dan Popkey and Betsy Russell of the Spokane Spokesman-Review.)

Several weeks ago, Fulcher telegraphed his strategy. Even before embarking on a statewide “listening tour” to gauge support for a gubernatorial run, Fulcher told Idaho Education News that K-12 policy would not be his issue.

“That’s probably not what I’m going to be leading with at this stage,” Fulcher said on Oct. 24.

Of course, there’s a long way between now and the May 20 GOP primary. The 2014 legislative session may well be defined by education debates: the recommendations from Otter’s education task force; another look at the collective bargaining laws passed in 2013, on a one-year basis; a potential battle over the Idaho Core Standards, which Fulcher and other legislative education committee members endorsed in 2011. And of course there’s the matter of the budget; K-12 receives nearly one half of the state’s general fund, and in 2013, Senate Republicans fought vigorously over the language in the public schools budget.

While Saturday was largely a one-issue announcement, it’s hard to envision a one-issue gubernatorial campaign.

Kevin Richert is a reporter and blogger at Idaho Education News (idahoednews.org). Kevin is a former Statesman editorial page editor, with 27 year's experience in Idaho journalism.

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