BOISE – The harshest political ad on the air in Idaho’s governor’s race goes after Democratic candidate A.J. Balukoff, branding him a “liberal” and attempting to tie him to President Barack Obama.
Balukoff, a Boise businessman and longtime chairman of the Boise School Board, says the ad is full of “lies and distortions,” particularly for attempting to tie him to Obama – when he was a supporter of Mitt Romney for president.
The Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, a business lobbying group, put out the ad as part of its independent campaign against Balukoff. The group maintains each of its claims is backed up by a citation to a news article or other source.
“It’s a critical part of our mission to inform voters about the true positions of someone running for our highest office,” Alex LaBeau, IACI president, said in a statement. The ad is part of a multi-pronged campaign the group is running that also includes a website, LiberalAJ.com, and mailers.
Jim Weatherby, Boise State University professor emeritus and a longtime observer of Idaho politics, said, “That the first attack ad would include the words ‘liberal’ and ‘Obama’ doesn’t surprise me a bit. That’s a typical GOP attack line. It’s worked in the past.”
Though people tend not to like negative advertising, Weatherby said, they do tend to be influenced by it. The ad shows a red “LIBERAL” stamp being smacked across Balukoff’s forehead, a term Weatherby said is something of a political “dirty word” in Idaho. “It’s just associated with big government and taxes and locking up public lands,” he said.
IACI cites Balukoff’s support for an unsuccessful voter initiative in 2006 to increase school funding in Idaho by raising the sales tax to 6 percent as support for its “increased taxes” claim. But the Legislature that year, in a special session, raised the tax to 6 percent to fund property tax relief three months before the election; the initiative then failed. Idaho’s sales tax remains at 6 percent.
“To use that as validation for the absurd claim that A.J. Balukoff intends to raise taxes is quite a stretch,” said Balukoff’s campaign spokesman, Mike Lanza.
Weatherby said, “Is it over the top? Sure. But a lot of negative advertising is. Are there exaggerations? Yes. I mean, it’s a real stretch to tie a school board president to the president of the United States.”
Weatherby said he’s not surprised that Otter is letting the business group run the attack ad, rather than dirtying his own hands. “That’s often the case, particularly for a candidate who is perceived to be in the lead,” he said.
Otter on Tuesday launched a feel-good ad of his own in southern Idaho, but it hasn’t yet started running up north.