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Posts tagged: A.J. Balukoff

AdWatch: Balukoff launches second TV campaign commercial

The newest TV ad to surface in Idaho’s gubernatorial campaign this year is a second one from Democrat A.J. Balukoff, themed around the historic Oregon Trail wagon runs south of Boise. “It’s another good introduction piece, but it doesn’t seem to be much different from the first one,” said Jim Weatherby, professor emeritus of public policy at Boise State University. “He needs to get his name out there and continue to introduce himself, but I think we need to pretty soon hear some more from him in terms of what a Balukoff Administration would look like and how different it might be from an Otter Administration.”

The only promise Balukoff makes in the ad is a general one, to “make quality schools and good jobs a priority.” Otter has been preparing a campaign commercial, though it’s not yet aired. You can see the ad and read my full AdWatch story here at spokesman.com.

Two divergent views on Idaho education…

The two major-party candidates for governor are offering “two divergent views on education” this week, reports Kevin Richert of Idaho Education News, with GOP Gov. Butch Otter sending a guest opinion to Idaho newspapers saying Idaho is on a continuing “journey to education excellence,” and Democratic challenger A.J. Balukoff sending out a fundraising  email calling Idaho’s bottom-ranked per-pupil spending “downright shameful.” Both candidates used a back-to-school theme.

Otter writes, “As Idaho students head back to school, I’m reminded of how far we’ve come toward improving education in Idaho – and how far we still need to go. It’s been an interesting and instructive journey, and one that reinforces my belief that how we get where we’re going is just as important as the destination. Almost two years ago I called on education stakeholders to join policymakers in charting a bold new course for Idaho's schools. In response, the State Board of Education assembled a diverse group of working educators, business leaders, legislators and other experts. The product of their work was a slate of 20 visionary recommendations that now serve as our path forward on improving education.” He says as part of that, he’s “committed to replenish classroom dollars” after budget cuts.

Balukoff writes, “Kids all over Idaho are returning to school. Some of them will get five-day school weeks, others will get just four. Some will have pay-to-pay athletics, some will have music and art while others won’t, and many classrooms will be overcrowded. The Idaho Constitution requires a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools. Education in Idaho is anything but uniform. The only way to change that is by voting out the top decision-makers. Not only is our dead last standing in the country for investment in education unacceptable, it’s downright shameful.”

You can Richert’s full report here.

 

Balukoff asks IACI board to take down ‘appalling’ attack website

A.J. Balukoff, Democratic candidate for governor of Idaho, has sent a letter to the board of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, the business lobbying group whose PAC has launched an attack campaign against him including a website dubbed “LiberalAJ.com,” asking the business leaders to take down the website. Balukoff wrote, “This website is filled with lies and gross misrepresentations in a transparent attempt to mislead voters. It demonstrates an appalling lack of integrity.” He cited the Rotary Club’s “four-way test,” saying he uses it as an “ethical guide.” The test asks: “Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”

Mike Reynoldson, IACI board member, immediate past chairman of the board and director of government affairs for Micron Technology, said he stands by the “LiberalAJ” website. Asked his reaction to Balukoff’s letter, Reynoldson said, “First-time candidate who maybe isn’t all that used to the political process. Obviously he’s upset that the website points out his positions, and so he’s trying to detract from that by making this request.”

Reynoldson said many of the “LiberalAJ” site’s claims point back to information Balukoff had posted on his own campaign website. For example, under the heading “Embracing Obamacare,” the site states, “A.J. supports Obamacare and its disastrous policies saying, ‘rather than calling for its repeal, I would prefer to work with it.’ Idahoans know that a federal government ‘solution’ isn’t what we need. We can’t afford a governor who embraces Obama and his failed healthcare policies. SOURCE: AJforIdaho.com/faq.” Next to the item is a picture of Balukoff with a picture of Obama super-imposed next to him.

Balukoff’s list of 23 “frequently asked questions” on his website includes, “What do you think about the Affordable Care Act?” His response, in part, says, “The Affordable Care Act is far from perfect, and it is not what I would have recommended. But rather than calling for its repeal, I would prefer to work with it and try to amend the parts of the law that are problematic. The problems in the law could be resolved through cooperation and compromise. Small businesses with few employees have a difficult time providing affordable health insurance for their employees, especially when one or two employees have a history of medical problems. The insurance premiums are high because the risk pool is small. This problem is fixed by the employees joining a larger risk pool, which is exactly what the state’s existing health insurance exchange provides—the opportunity to join a larger risk pool in an Idaho-run health insurance exchange rather than the federal exchange.”

Both IACI and GOP Gov. Butch Otter, whom Balukoff is challenging, supported the state-run insurance exchange, which Otter championed. But Reynoldson said, “His position and IACI’s position are different.”

You can see Balukoff’s website here, and IACI’s attack site here, which is headed, “A.J. Balukoff, YOU’RE A LIBERAL.”

Balukoff says IACI ‘slander campaign’ shows Otter dodging record

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.

IACI launches anti-Balukoff campaign

The Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, a lobbying group that represents the state’s largest businesses, announced today that its political action committee, the Idaho Prosperity Fund, is launching an independent campaign against A.J. Balukoff, the Democratic candidate for governor. “A.J. Balukoff wants Idahoans to think he’s some kind of level-headed moderate,” said Alex LaBeau, IACI chief. He said his group will seek to counter that impression and tie Balukoff to Democratic President Barack Obama, drawing on everything from Balukoff’s voting record as a Boise school board member to his campaign website.

“As the voice for a strong and vibrant economy in Idaho, the Prosperity Fund believes it’s a critical part of our mission to inform voters about the true positions of someone running for our highest office,” LaBeau said. He said the campaign will include television, direct mail, social media and more, and will be centered around a new website dubbed “LiberalAJ.com.”

Asked why his group decided to launch the effort, LaBeau said, “We wanted to make sure that there wasn’t just one side of the issue getting out there. We wanted to make sure that people understood there are two sides to this campaign.”

Balukoff is challenging GOP Gov. Butch Otter, who is seeking a third term; former Canyon County prosecutor John Bujak also is in the race, running as a Libertarian. The ballot also includes independents Jill Humble and “Pro-Life,” and Constitution Party candidate Steve Pankey.

Balukoff on economy: Otter’s policies have ‘driven Idaho to the bottom’

A.J. Balukoff, the Democratic candidate for governor, has sent a guest opinion out to Idaho news media laying out his vision for improving the state’s economy. “Under the state’s current leadership, our economy has plummeted,” he writes. “Today, Idaho’s families work harder for less.”

Balukoff calls for more funding for both K-12 and higher education; targeted help for existing businesses, including infrastructure improvements; and “building a better Idaho brand,” on which he writes, “My opponent has perpetrated the stereotype that Idaho is a backwater haven for political extremists. His divisive policies have driven Idaho to the bottom economically. Inadequate education investment and a national media spotlight on our foibles are bad for business. A governor should know that.”

Balukoff’s full piece is online here; I’m awaiting response from Otter’s campaign. (UPDATE: Otter's campaign said Wednesday that it would have no response.)

Otter films campaign commercial, Balukoff hits Spokane market airwaves

Shoppers at the Albertson’s store at 16th and State streets reported an unusual sight this morning – Gov. Butch Otter and a crew apparently filming a campaign commercial, doing multiple takes. Otter campaign spokeswoman Kaycee Emery confirmed that’s what was happening. “We’re currently in production,” she said. “I can’t really discuss the details, but we have been to a variety of locations and we’ll continue to utilize a variety of locations across the valley.” The date that Otter’s new campaign spot will begin airing hasn’t yet been finalized, she said.

Meanwhile, the GOP governor’s Democratic challenger, A.J. Balukoff, has had his own TV campaign commercial up and running for more than a month now; it starts airing in the Spokane television market tomorrow.

Balukoff hits airwaves with first campaign ad of Idaho guv’s race

The first campaign commercial of Idaho’s governor’s race is out, and it’s from GOP Gov. Butch Otter’s Democratic challenger, millionaire businessman A.J. Balukoff. “Tired of business as usual in Boise? Then take a look at A.J. Balukoff, a successful businessman who’s created jobs by bringing people together to get things done,” the ad begins.

“It’s a good positive ad introducing himself to the people of Idaho, in terms of his background and that he’ll run on a change platform,” said Jim Weatherby, Boise State University emeritus professor and longtime observer of Idaho politics. “We don’t know exactly what he will do, but he needs to introduce himself. He’s not well-known outside the Boise valley.” You can read my full ad-watch story here at spokesman.com, and watch the commercial here.

Balukoff knocks Otter for destroying public records, also incorrectly says records law is in Constitution

A.J. Balukoff, Democratic candidate for governor, is criticizing GOP Gov. Butch Otter for destroying 22 of the 37 applications for two recent openings on the state Board of Education, saying Otter isn’t following through with his pledge to emphasize openness in government, made when he appointed a state public records ombudsman in his office this spring. However, in his statement, he mixes up the Idaho Public Records Law and the state Constitution. “That was my error,” said Mike Lanza, communications director for Balukoff’s campaign; he said a corrected statement is in the works. “We’re talking about the law here,” Lanza said. (Update: A corrected statement was posted within an hour.)

Balukoff said, “Gov. Otter made a great show of this appointment, which followed a request from newspaper publishers for better government compliance with the freedom of information and public-records laws. The Otter administration’s handling of this episode raises two questions: How committed is the governor to obeying state open-records law? And why would his administration conceal from us some applicants for a high-profile state board?”

Balukoff also charged that Otter’s move violated the state Constitution, incorrectly attributing a passage from the Public Records Act to the Idaho Constitution. “The public has the constitutional right to know who’s seeking positions in government, and there was no legitimate reason to have destroyed those records,” he said.

Otter’s public records ombudsman, Cally Younger, told Idaho Education News that the applications were destroyed because they contained personal information; the news outlet had requested all the applications. But those that weren’t destroyed, and were released, also contained personal information such as driver’s license numbers; it was redacted, or blacked out, in the released versions.

Lanza said, “The language is pretty darn clear in that statute – it seems to be clear to us, anyway, as to what the government should be doing.” Balukoff’s full statement is online here.

Balukoff offers 3-1 match for donors to his campaign against Otter

A.J. Balukoff, the Democratic candidate for governor of Idaho, is matching contributions to his campaign by putting in $3 for every $1 donated this month, Idaho Statesman political columnist Dan Popkey reports today. Balukoff’s pledge is credible because the multimillionaire businessman can afford it – and he said when he announced his candidacy against two-term GOP Gov. Butch Otter that he was willing to dip into his own funds to help finance his campaign.

“I know that pay-to-pay politics will put my opponent at a financial advantage, but I was surprised to find out how slanted it is,” Popkey reported Balukoff said in a fundraising pitch sent out to supporters this week, headed, “Jump in July: TRIPLE MATCH!” Balukoff told Popkey, “I think it’s important that this race be competitive and that we talk about issues. People pay attention when they realize there’s a viable alternative to Gov. Otter.” Popkey’s full report is online here.

Could Bujak’s Libertarian bid draw enough votes to tip gov’s race from Otter to Balukoff?

Former Canyon County prosecutor John Bujak says he thinks he can win his Libertarian bid for governor of Idaho, and told Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey today, “I represented myself through five criminal trials in the last three years. The establishment didn’t expect me to win, but I did thanks to the voice of the people who served on my juries. The establishment doesn’t expect me to win the governor’s race either. Come November, I guess we will see what the people of Idaho have to say about that.”

Bujak, formerly a Republican, was charged with fraud and theft, but was acquitted three times and juries were unable to reach a verdict two other times. Popkey suggested if Bujak runs strong as a third-party candidate, his run could tip a close race to Democratic challenger A.J. Balukoff over two-term incumbent GOP Gov. Butch Otter.

Bujak responded that he’s not in it as a “spoiler,” but listed factors he said will help him draw votes, including that nearly 60 percent of Idaho voters aren’t affiliated with either party; the “large number of disenfranchised Millennials and Gen X’ers who have not traditionally registered to vote because they have no hope that their vote will make a difference based upon the choices at the polls;” and “the fact that the Republican party in Idaho is currently imploding. How can the Republicans lead Idaho if they cannot even organize and lead their own political party?” You can read Popkey’s full post here.

Otter rips Balukoff over Hobby Lobby ruling, Balukoff responds

In addition to the official statement Gov. Butch Otter sent out yesterday lauding the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, Otter also sent out another rather different statement from his campaign – sharply attacking his Democratic opponent, A.J. Balukoff, and suggesting Balukoff “would happily go along with Obama’s attempts to repress religious freedom and individual rights.”

Today, Balukoff responded, saying, “By misrepresenting my views, Otter makes one point very clear: He knows he will lose if he tries to run on his own, terrible record.” Click below to read both the Otter campaign statement and Balukoff’s response.

Balukoff: NRA candidate questionnaire ‘biased and loaded’

A.J. Balukoff, Democratic candidate for governor, is refusing to fill out a National Rifle Association candidate questionnaire, saying it’s “biased and loaded with leading questions that do not allow me to accurately state my position on gun laws.” In a letter back to the NRA, he wrote, “The leading questions and multiple-choice answers in your questionnaire allow for only polarizing and extreme positions.” He noted in particular a question about Idaho’s guns on campus bill, SB 1254, that passed this year. “I believe this bill was not necessary and creates more problems than it solves,” Balukoff wrote. “University presidents, faculty and students should have the ability to determine the culture of their college campus. That culture should not be dictated from the Statehouse.”

You can read both Balukoff’s letter and the NRA questionnaire online here. Balukoff faces Terry Kerr of Idaho Falls in the Democratic primary in May; GOP Gov. Butch Otter, who backed SB 1254 and signed it into law, faces Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, who also supported the bill, along with two other GOP primary challengers, Harley Brown and Walt Bayes.

Balukoff comes out against guns-on-campus bill, privatizing prisons

Democratic candidate for governor A.J. Balukoff spoke out today against the guns-on-campus bill that Gov. Butch Otter signed into law yesterday, saying, “That’s a solution looking for a problem. It was totally unnecessary, and I think the process to pass that was just as flawed as the bill.” Balukoff, the chairman of the Boise School Board, said, “It was an erosion of local control. … It’s also an  unfunded mandate to our colleges and universities, who are already struggling to make ends meet.”

Balukoff’s comments came in response to reporters’ questions as he held a news conference on the Statehouse steps today to note that he and running mate Bert Marley have filed their candidacy papers; Marley, a former Democratic state senator and longtime teacher, is running for lieutenant governor.

“State government continues to focus on issues that polarize and divide people rather than bringing us together,” Balukoff said. “Most of the issues they’ve dealt with in this legislative session will have very little practical impact on most Idahoans, but they take time and energy and resources away from the important issues, education and our economy.”

Balukoff also was asked about the Corrections Corp. of America, which operates Idaho’s largest state prison, but the state is now taking it back over amid scandal and lawsuits. “I’m glad that the FBI is doing an investigation,” Balukoff said. “I think that we’ll be better off running our prisons internally, instead of contracting that out to for-profit companies. It just doesn’t sound right to me to make profit off of a prison system. It’s more than warehousing people. We should be educating, rehabilitating those people so that they can return to society, support their families and be productive members of our communities.”

In addition to Balukoff, Terry Kerr of Idaho Falls filed to run for governor as a Democrat this week, though he’s run for local office as a Republican in the past. GOP candidates who have filed thus far include incumbent Gov. Butch Otter; Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian; and perennial office-seeker Harley Brown of Nampa. The filing deadline is tomorrow.

Balukoff issues polite but pointed response to Otter’s State of State message

A.J. Balukoff, Democratic candidate for governor and chairman of the Boise School Board, has issued a response to GOP Gov. Butch Otter’s State of the State message, focusing on education needs, health care and the economy. “While Gov. Otter’s State of the State Address offers a lot of rhetoric about where Idaho needs to go, what he has actually shown us is the limit of his ability to take us there,” Balukoff says. “To give our kids, our economy and our state the future they deserve we need new leadership and to restore funding and make education a top priority.”

He closes his statement with this comment: “Governor Otter is a good person and a likable man, but it is clear that it is time for a new governor to lead our state.” The full statement is online here.

Dem candidate for governor has vast personal wealth

The personal wealth of Democratic candidate for governor A.J. Balukoff is vast, Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey reports this morning, and Balukoff has been very open about it, including his ability to at least partially self-fund his campaign; he has that in common with current Gov. Butch Otter, a multi-millionaire who in August forgave a $131,000 loan to his own campaign. Popkey reports that Balukoff’s net worth is between $40 million and $50 million; plus, his wife, Susie, one of four heirs to the Skagg’s drugstore fortune, has an inheritance worth $20 million. Popkey’s full report is online here.

Dem candidate for guv was listed as a ‘Republican for Minnick’ in 2008

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Democrats' choice to run for governor was listed as a Republican five years ago. In 2008, Anthony Joseph “A.J.” Balukoff was named as a Republican backer of then-U.S. House candidate Walt Minnick. Balukoff was among 60 “Republicans for Minnick” during the Democrat's successful run against Bill Sali. In an August 2008 e-mail from Minnick's campaign, Balukoff topped a group that had “supported the Republican Party with time, with money and with votes. And we will continue to do so in this election and in elections to come,” according to the message. Balukoff didn't return a call Friday. Larry Kenck, Idaho Democratic chairman, said he's discussed Balukoff's allegiances and is convinced he's a Democrat with an independent streak. Balukoff didn't choose a party in 2012's primary; he didn't vote.

Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller, which also notes Balukoff's contributions to both Democratic and Republican candidates and causes over the years.

Otter campaign responds to Balukoff announcement in guv’s race

Gov. Butch Otter's re-election campaign released this statement today in response to the announcement from A.J. Balukoff that he'll run for Idaho governor as a Democrat:

“While others campaign and consider their options, Governor Otter is busy governing and continuing to position Idaho at the forefront of growth, job creation and freedom. He’s staying focused on the proper role of government while defending Idaho’s independence, addressing our workforce needs and creating economic opportunity for all Idahoans. That said, the Governor looks forward to discussing with voters the implications of a Democrat working to advance the Obama administration’s big-government priorities here in Idaho.”

You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

How to say the name…

So, how do you say Balukoff? A.J. Balukoff, newly announced Democratic candidate for governor, says it’s like the Baloo, the bear in the Jungle Book – the accent is on the LU. (Baloo was the “sleepy brown bear” in the Kipling classic; in the Disney version, he’s the popular character who sings about “The Bare Necessities.”) The name is Bulgarian; that’s where Balukoff’s grandparents emigrated from when they came to this country 100 years ago this month.

Also, the A.J. stands for Anthony Joseph, but he’s always gone by A.J. The reason: Anthony is his father’s name, and Josephine is his mother’s, so the family already had a Tony and a Jo.

Balukoff launches campaign for governor

Boise School Board Chairman A.J. Balukoff launched his Democratic campaign for governor of Idaho today, saying two decades of one-party GOP rule in Idaho have hurt the state’s education system and economy and created a “pay-to-play culture that leaves regular Idahoans on the outside looking in.” The 67-year-old businessman said, “I’m running for governor because I believe Idaho can do better.”

About 80 supporters gathered for Balukoff’s announcement outside Boise’s Hillcrest Elementary School in the sharp chill of an early-winter morning; a group of Balukoff’s grandkids – he has 30 – held signs including, “Grandpa for Governor.” Former four-term Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus was among those in the crowd. “He’s extremely well-qualified and would be an excellent candidate,” Andrus said of Balukoff. “He’s a successful businessman in his own right.”

Asked if he thought Balukoff – who’s never run for an office higher than school board – could beat two-term GOP Gov. Butch Otter, Andrus said, “Yes, he can beat Butch Otter,” but he added, “Butch may not be the candidate,” noting that Otter faces a challenge in the GOP primary from state Sen. Russ Fulcher. “We’ve had surprises before,” said Andrus with a chuckle, “I was elected.”

Said Balukoff, “We’ve had 20 years of one-party rule in this state, but I have a sense that the people of Idaho are ready for a change.” A businessman and retired CPA, Balukoff, who holds an accounting degree from Brigham Young University, is a major figure in the ownership groups of the Grove Hotel, the Idaho Steelheads hockey team, Century Link Arena, downtown office buildings and more. He also serves on the boards of the Boise Public Library, St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center, the Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy, and Ballet Idaho, and is the former bishop of his LDS church ward.

He said education is a top issue for him; he’s served on the Boise School Board since 1997. That board took a high-profile position against the “Students Come First” school reform laws, which voters rejected last year. Balukoff said he backs the 20 recommendations of Otter’s education stakeholders task force, but said that approach should have been tried much earlier – instead of Students Come First. Plus, he said, “I don’t think it goes far enough. … It didn’t address early childhood education, and it didn’t address higher education needs in our state.”

Mike Lanza, a Boise parent who helped organize the successful campaign to overturn the school reform measures, said, “I’m certainly glad to see a candidate with a strong emphasis on education.” Others at the announcement included Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, who introduced Balukoff; and former state schools Superintendent Marilyn Howard, whom Bieter noted, saying, “We miss you, Marilyn.”

Balukoff said he’s making plans to travel around the state and meet with Idahoans, but hasn’t yet set a schedule. He said initial reaction to his run has been supportive from both Democrats and Republicans, “people I know in my neighborhood, at church, things like that.” He said, “I am independent-minded and have a track record of solving problems and building success.”

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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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