Congressman Butch Otter lined up an on-the-clock engine company from the Meridian Fire Department, along with the chief and other officials, for a campaign press conference this morning just after the official state 9/11 memorial ceremony on the Statehouse steps. “Today, I’m announcing that as the 32nd governor of the state of Idaho, I will bring first responders together,” Otter declared. He promised to call a “first responders roundtable,” if elected, to help coordinate between the various first responders around the state “on what they need to protect us, and how we as a state can provide it.”
More than a dozen Meridian firefighters, officers and others lined up behind Otter for the campaign press conference, as shown here in this photo by Mike Vogt of the Idaho Press Tribune - in fact, the members of the engine company spread out in a line that continued off to the right. But when asked if they were endorsing his run for governor, they were silent. “They’re gonna have to answer that as far as whether they’re endorsing me,” Otter said. One officer called out, “I am,” while the rest remained silent. Otter said, “I think what they do see is a need for communication. … I think they’re here because they see the need of what I’m talking about.”
Jerry Brady, Otter’s Democratic opponent in the race for governor, attended the 9/11 ceremony and visited with law enforcement officers afterward. “I wouldn’t try to take advantage of this day,” he said. “This is a day we should be together in unity and prayer, and not taking advantage of it for politics.”
Meridian Fire Chief Ron Anderson, who was one of the keynote speakers at the 9/11 ceremony, said after the Otter press conference, “The engine company, no, those guys are on duty. We came here because of the 9/11 memorial, that’s the reason why we’re here. We were asked to stick around to do a press release and endorsement of the roundtable meetings, and we do support that.” He added, “We wouldn’t have gone out of our way to come down here for a campaign speech. We were already down here.”
“Whether these guys vote or whether I vote for Otter is a completely different issue," Anderson said. "I don’t know who I’m going to vote for today.”
Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd, who also attended the ceremony and press conference and watched from the audience, said, “They stood behind security for our state. … So I don’t think it’s a partisan thing, it’s their jobs.”
Brady said he, too, believes the state has an important role to play in coordinating first responders and emergency services. “I think the state police could take the role in seeing that they’re all working together,” he said, particularly in the fight against methamphetamine.
Otter pledged to “use the office of governor … so that Idaho will be a model of coordination and efficiency.”
Otter, a Republican, is running for governor after three terms in Congress representing the 1st District, which includes all of North Idaho. He faces Democrat Brady; Libertarian Ted Dunlap; and Constitution Party candidate Marvin P. Richardson.