A.J. Balukoff, the Democratic challenger to Idaho GOP Gov. Butch Otter, in response to yesterday’s announcement from the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry that it’s launching an independent campaign against him, said it shows that Otter “is determined to run away from his poor record on education and jobs in Idaho.” Said Balukoff, “He has decided to go negative. That’s disappointing, because we feel the voters should hear directly from the candidates about their views and records.”
He also slammed IACI – the business lobbying group that’s the former employer of Otter’s campaign manager, Jayson Ronk – for launching a “slander campaign,” noting that the group’s new anti-Balukoff website is critical of positions he’s taken that match those of IACI, including support for Medicaid expansion and the state health insurance exchange. You can read Balukoff’s full statement here.
Click below for a full report on the IACI effort from AP reporter Kimberlee Kruesi.
Idaho biz group launches attacks on AJ Balukoff
By KIMBERLEE KRUESI, Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho's Democratic gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff is the target of a recently launched website criticizing his political stances, but Balukoff says the site uses lies to undermine his campaign against Gov. Butch Otter.
The Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry's political action committee posted the site Tuesday.
The site attacks Balukoff's stance on guns, wolves and taxes. The association also criticized Balukoff's support of expanding Idaho's Medicaid eligibility, even though the pro-business lobby group urged lawmakers to embrace Medicaid expansion a year ago. Balukoff even cited IACI's support of Medicaid expansion on his official campaign website.
On the IACI site, Balukoff's picture is displayed next to President Barack Obama, with the phrase "A.J. - You're a liberal" posted next to each criticism.
Balukoff's spokesman says the site is appalling. Michael Lanza contends Otter is using this as a tactic to run away from his own political record.
"Balukoff is very much a moderate," Lanza said. "To tie Balukoff to Obama is absurd. Look at his record, he voted for Mitt Romney."
The site said that Balukoff voted to increase taxes while serving on the Boise school board, resulting in higher property taxes for Idahoans.
But Lanza says the board had to put it before voters to make the final decision whenever Balukoff and the rest of the board sought to pass a school bond or levy. Balukoff had no power to enact the tax increase, instead they were all voter approved.
The site goes after Balukoff's "C-rating" he received from the National Rifle Association. According to the site, Balukoff "demonstrates his lack of care for Second Amendment rights, even saying in reference to recent state legislation about firearms on campuses that government should have an increased role."
Balukoff did oppose the law allowing concealed weapons on Idaho's public college campuses but wrote on his campaign website that if there was problem with campus security, he would work with stakeholders to find a solution.
"I support the Second Amendment. But this isn't a Second Amendment issue. I also believe that government has to listen to the people and be accountable and responsible," Balukoff said on the site.
This isn't the first time the association has gone after political candidates.
In 2010, IACI launched a similar attack website targeting former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Keith Allred who, like Balukoff, was running against Otter. Specifically, the site claimed that Allred's proposed budget outline would have left Idaho with an $82 million deficit.
Allred countered, saying the site was spreading misinformation and was "flat wrong." Allred later lost the election with Otter securing nearly 60 percent of the vote.
The political action committee, called the Idaho Prosperity Fund, was active in the most recent GOP May primary election. It contributed money to a handful of legislative races and funded a campaign blasting former conservative state Rep. Lenore Barrett of Challis for being "soft on wolves." The 9-term lawmaker went on to lose her seat against GOP political newcomer Merrill Beyeler.
"AJ Balukoff wants Idahoans to think he's some kind of level-headed moderate. But the reality is that he proudly supports the failed policies and approaches of the Obama administration on a variety of serious issues that hard-working Idahoans need to be aware of," said IACI president Alex LaBeau in a statement.
Come Nov. 4, Balukoff will face off against Otter, who is seeking a third term as the GOP candidate; former Canyon County prosecutor and Libertarian John Bujak; Constitution Party candidate Steve Pankey and independent candidates Jill Humble and a contender whose name has legally been changed to Pro-Life.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press