BOISE – As recently as 2008, Democratic gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff and his family have identified as Republicans and given more than $10,000 to various GOP candidates, including his potential rival next fall, Gov. Butch Otter.
Balukoff gave Otter $250 in 2004 for his re-election to Congress, campaign records show.
Additionally, Balukoff gave nearly $5,000 to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney over the last two election cycles while his wife, Susie Skaggs Balukoff, an heir to the Skaggs drug store fortune, gave a similar amount to Romney between 2007 and 2012.
Other Republican recipients of the Balukoffs’ political giving include U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, former U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, and 1998 Republican House candidate Mark Stubbs, of Twin Falls, according to election records tracked by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Responsive Politics.
Among candidates for state office, Balukoff’s campaign largesse has extended to more than a dozen Republicans, including former Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, former state Sen. Hal Bunderson, former Controller Keith Johnson and former Gov. Phil Batt.
He’s also given to Democratic causes and candidates.
For example, Balukoff was listed in 2008 as a Republican backer for then-Democratic U.S. House candidate Walt Minnick. For Minnick’s re-election bid in 2010, Balukoff contributed $4,700. He also backed Keith Allred’s unsuccessful run against Otter in 2010 with $10,000.
Earlier this year, he gave $5,600 to the Idaho Democratic Party. He’s given money to former public schools chief Marilyn Howard and former state Rep. Anne Pasley-Stuart, both Democrats.
He gave $10,000 to the campaign to defeat Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna’s “Students Come First” public school overhaul in 2012. Balukoff is a 16-year member of the Boise School Board and currently is chairman of that panel.
Jasper LiCalzi, a professor of political economy at the College of Idaho, said he believes many Democratic voters will overlook Balukoff’s history of giving to Republican candidates because they believe he’s the best candidate to bolster funding for Idaho’s public education system.
“Are some Democrats not going to be happy? They’ll hold their nose,” LiCalzi said. “Republicans could argue he’s a flip-flopper. But I don’t see Democrats running away from him. For the Democrats, the big issue is education. And they think he’s right on education.”
Another, pragmatic reason to give to Republican candidates, LiCalzi said, is they dominate Idaho politics.
“You give to whoever’s in office,” he said. “If you give money to the guy who is not in office, they don’t do anything for you.”
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