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Eye On Boise

The rumor mill

Why did Butch Otter announce his ’06 bid for governor so soon – before he’d even been sworn in for the two-year congressional term to which he’s just been elected?

One theory is that Otter wanted to scare off his likely primary opponent, current Idaho Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch, by piling up a massive early pot of campaign cash and high-profile endorsements. Otter’s early filing of a political treasurer certification allows him to start raising money for the gubernatorial campaign, and he just happened to mention on the form the name of his campaign chairman, the popular and respected former Idaho Gov. Phil Batt.

The only problem with this is that Risch, in his very long and successful career in Idaho politics, hasn’t shown any tendency to scare easily. And he’ll have known all along that Otter can generate tons of campaign cash and big-name endorsements, as can any sitting congressman.

Another theory is that Risch will get his own early boost in the campaign, if Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne gets an appointment to the Bush Administration and moves on, leaving Risch to step up as governor. One possibility, to which Kempthorne is saying only “no comment,” is that Kempthorne could replace former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt as EPA chief, as Leavitt moves on to head Health and Human Services. Then, Risch, already serving as governor, would run as the incumbent in 2006. Otter’s early splash could be designed to offset a Risch head start in the race.

Or maybe it’s just that Otter can’t wait to start running for governor, an office he first sought in 1978.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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