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Face Time: Allred staying focused on citizens’ interests

 Keith Allred, left, talks with 1st District Rep. Walt Minnick during a picnic for Canyon County Democrats  July 10 in Nampa, Idaho.  (Associated Press)
Keith Allred, left, talks with 1st District Rep. Walt Minnick during a picnic for Canyon County Democrats July 10 in Nampa, Idaho. (Associated Press)

BOISE – Before Keith Allred ran for governor of Idaho, the former Harvard University professor was becoming an increasingly common sight in Idaho’s state Capitol, where he spent five years lobbying for what he called “the common interest” on behalf of his nonpartisan citizens group.

Allred brought together people of all political stripes from throughout the state into a group that collectively studied and debated issues, and where they reached broad consensus, he lobbied for those positions in the state Legislature, with some notable successes.

Now, after running on the Democratic ticket and losing to Republican Gov. Butch Otter, Allred says he plans to focus on business consulting work for the next two to three years, but he says the idea of the common interest isn’t over – and he still hopes to expand it nationwide.

Q. What’s in store for The Common Interest?

A.The vision for the future long-term was to get The Common Interest going to be as effective and influential in all 50 states and at the federal level as it has been in Idaho. That continues to be the vision and a real passion of mine. To do that, we had already noted that we would have to move to a different model than one guy donates half his time. … The idea was we would seek grant money. … So we will continue to pursue that. … That was a 17-year vision – by the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Q. Will you or others be lobbying Idaho lawmakers in the coming year on behalf of The Common Interest?

A. We will probably have some modest involvement. … There may be issues that come up that The Common Interest has already done its briefing process on and it has polled its members, and so we may just kind of on an ad-hoc basis identify some board member or somebody to go testify on behalf of The Common Interest on work that we had already done.

(But Allred said it won’t be him.) I think we would want to have a different face for that.

Q. Would you run for office again?

A. The driving passion of my professional life has always been trying to find solutions that attract broad support and champion those, which is what I think the Founding Fathers intended with the system of separation of powers. I probably am more passionate about that and committed to that than ever now. So I’m always just thinking in terms of the highest-level way of doing that. I founded The Common Interest because that seemed to me an effective way to pursue that passion, and that’s why I ran for governor.

Q. Any regrets about running on a partisan ticket?

A. No, I feel better about the decision to run for governor now than I did when I made the decision. This is a pretty ambitious goal that I have, that our generation have a better record than we currently have of managing our divisions and getting sensible policy. That’s going to be a pretty tough thing. … You’re not going to be able to move the needle very much unless you’re willing to take some bold actions. … I assumed I had less than a 50 percent chance of winning, but it was worth taking a shot at, and I feel that way today.

Q. Would you run as a Democrat again?

A. I think it’s an open question … whether the Democratic Party would want to back an independent like me again. … I’m certainly not changing. There’s certainly some discussion within the Democratic Party that we ought to have a more distinctive progressive and populist approach, more distinct from the Republican Party, and if that becomes dominant, I doubt I’m their guy.

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