BOISE - Two of Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s primary election challengers lashed out at him during a statewide debate Tuesday night, while Otter declined to participate in the matchup that aired live statewide on Idaho Public Television.
“I’d like to ask him why he thinks he’s above having his ideas challenged by the public,” said GOP challenger Rex Rammell, a veterinarian from Rexburg. “Isn’t it the responsibility of the top elected official of the state of Idaho to let the people know what your ideas are? … Why didn’t you show up for this?”
Sharon Ullman, a Republican Ada County commissioner, said she wished she could’ve asked Otter if he’ll really serve a full four-year term if he’s re-elected. “There’s a strong rumor going around that he plans to … step down and let the lieutenant governor become governor,” she declared.
In a statement issued Tuesday by his campaign, Otter repeated his contention that the debate should have included all candidates, including those not actively campaigning for the post. He also said, “I met some of my primary opponents at Lincoln Day events around the state in recent months. Each of us had ample opportunity to get voters acquainted with our issues and priorities.”
Rammell and Ullman bashed Otter for proposing a gas tax increase in 2009; for failing to attract more jobs to the state; for proposing increasing counties’ costs for indigent health care; and for not being hostile enough to the federal government.
“If you elect me governor, they will be asked to leave this state,” Rammell said of the federal government. “I will do whatever needs to be done.”
Ullman chided him for his rhetoric. “We’ve already had one civil war. Abraham Lincoln is known for two things, getting rid of slavery and keeping the union whole. I think keeping the union whole is a worthy goal,” she said.
She added, “I think we need to fight the federal government on different terms. I think we need to team up with the other states. We do that in county government, we get together with the other counties and go to the state government if we want something changed. We work with the other states, we work with our federal representatives, we work to get other people elected when we don’t like what’s going on in Washington, D.C. We get different policies set, we get policies changed. That’s what I’ve been doing in this community for nearly two decades and it works, it’s successful. That’s what we need to be doing, not taking up arms against our own federal government.”
Rammell has been campaigning hard around the state, sponsoring free dinners and holding “10th Amendment rallies,” and has raised $55,000 since Jan. 1, nearly all of it from individuals in Idaho. Ullman has spent $1,800 of her own money campaigning and received only two campaign contributions, including $100 from Canyon County libertarian icon Ralph Smeed, but she said she’s not accepting contributions from “special interests.”
“My campaign is not about money,” Ullman said. She noted that with Idaho’s low voter turnout in primary elections, she could win the primary if she got the same number of votes she garnered in the last Ada County commissioner race. “It’s all about voter turnout,” she said.