Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has had some scattered successes in his nearly four years in office. And some of the budgetary moves for which he’s been faulted are due at least in part to a staggering economy.
But he has not been the solid and thoughtful leader Idaho deserves. He is doctrinaire and impulsive, his record spotted with reversals of position and ineffectiveness.
For example, after saying recently that federal law allows hunters to shoot wolves pursuing game animals, he had to correct himself. He told a tea party rally in Spokane he favored repealing the 17th Amendment, which provides popular election of senators, but since has backed off. He once proposed to end funding for such programs as parks, public television and the state Human Rights Commission, then reversed himself. Republican Otter curiously invoked a supporter to make a special appeal to Mormons not to support Democratic candidate Keith Allred, a Mormon.
We believe Allred, who stands out in a field of nonpartisan and third-party rivals, has the potential to be a strong, collaborative and methodical governor who could get positive results while upholding Idaho’s independent spirit.
Otter deserves credit for success in education (a state college scholarship fund was established under his watch) and economic development (numerous businesses are relocating to Idaho).
He also was right, and Allred wrong, about the need for more funding for Idaho highways. But since the Legislature rejected Otter’s appeal for the first increase in the state gasoline tax in 15 years, he’s being circumspect about whether he still supports it, preferring to await a special task force report that won’t be ready until after the election.
Allred is an unconventional Democrat. He had no evident partisan affiliation before entering the gubernatorial contest, and when he did, he made it clear to party leaders that his alignment with them would be on his terms, not theirs.
He has a doctorate in conflict resolution – not a bad calling in the world of politics – and taught it at Columbia University and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
As the founder and president of Common Interest, a public-issue citizen group, Allred understands the value of engaging the public in problem-solving and consensus-building efforts. Such an approach, which he has regularly practiced in Common Interest, won’t work magic, but it has a good chance to build badly needed public trust.
Too bad Otter didn’t practice it before shooting down the Boulder-White Clouds wilderness area designation that Idaho’s congressional delegation had spent years working out with ranchers, farmers and environmentalists.
No lefty, Allred agrees with Otter that the federal government is overreaching, but he favors restoring state sovereignty by working within the system rather than going to court and putting judges in control. Unlike Otter, he thinks the state should maintain control over wolf management programs.
Allred is methodical, pragmatic and outcome-focused, and would foster public confidence. We commend him to Idaho’s voters.