EMMETT, Idaho – Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little launched his re-election campaign this morning, quelling – at least for now – speculation that Gov. Butch Otter would step aside and allow his hand-picked running mate a shot at the top job.
“I’m here to support Brad,” Otter declared as he joined more than 100 of Little’s supporters at City Park in Emmett, Little’s home town, for a combination pancake breakfast and campaign kickoff. Asked if he thinks Little is a future governor, Otter shot back, “He should be.”
But the 71-year-old GOP governor said he’s set on seeking a third term. “I think we’ve been a great team,” he said. “I think we’ll continue to be a great team for the next four years.”
Otter said if he’s re-elected, “I have no reason to believe I will not complete four years.” He added, “I’m healthy as a horse.”
Little, 59, a prominent rancher and former four-term state senator, was appointed lieutenant governor by Otter in 2009, and elected to a full term in the part-time post in 2010. Otter’s given him a more prominent role than past lieutenant governors – including Otter himself, who was Idaho’s lieutenant governor for 14 years. In addition to presiding over the Senate and filling in as governor when Otter’s out of state, Little has led trade missions, headed up major projects, and become a trusted adviser of Otter’s, attending every cabinet meeting and confab with legislative leaders during the legislative session.
Otter said Little matches his conservative philosophy, and he also values his knowledge of government and Idaho’s agricultural and resource industries, and his interest in high tech.
Little said, “My personal philosophy has always been to ensure the lightest possible hand of government in the lives of citizens and businesses. Idaho is a model for how a conservative and fiscally responsible government allows the dynamics of the free market to create prosperity. Government should provide roads and it should provide for education. But individual entrepreneurs and businesses, unencumbered by red tape and high taxes, create jobs.”
Little quoted the late Win Rockefeller, the former longtime lieutenant governor of Arkansas, who said, “You want a lieutenant governor like a spare tire – out of sight and out of the way – but all pumped up and ready to go.”
Little said he’s just that, though perhaps not always out of sight. Asked after his announcement if he really wants to stay in the No. 2 job, which pays just $35,100 a year, Little said, “I love this job.” He said he’s talked to lieutenant governors from across the country, and, “Ninety percent of ‘em would kill to have the opportunities I have here.”
He did say, “I don’t know that I want to do it for 14 years,” and noted, “You know you wouldn’t take the job if you didn’t think you had the skills to be governor.”
Little’s a favorite son in Emmett, where the local sheriff and several other top county officials were among those cooking the pancakes and serving up the eggs this morning; everyone at the event who was asked said Little could easily be a future Idaho governor.
“He’s got the tools that are needed for that job,” said Gem County Commissioner Lan Smith. “He doesn’t jump to conclusions quickly, he listens to people well and considers all sides of things.” Smith added, “He’s been involved in the community his whole life. His family’s well-respected.”
Dan Chadwick, an Emmett native and current executive director of the Idaho Association of Counties, has known Little for 45 years. “I think he has all the qualities to be a governor,” Chadwick said. “He’s focused, he’s a great guy, and he has the best interest of this valley and the state. So if at some point things happen, I think he’d be a great governor.”
Little’s Emmett announcement this morning kicked off a two-week campaign tour of the state, including stops in Sandpoint tonight and Coeur d’Alene Thursday morning, St. Maries at noon Thursday and Lewiston Thursday evening.
To reporters who questioned why a post like lieutenant governor would warrant such a statewide campaign launch tour, Little said, “Idaho’s a pretty big state. … I think it’s the right thing to do if you’re going to run for statewide office.”