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Opinion >  Column

Eye on Boise: Democratic ticket pleases ex-governor

BOISE – Former longtime Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus was looking pleased, despite the chilly weather, as he gathered with a crowd of about 80 last week to cheer the launch of Democratic candidate A.J. Balukoff’s gubernatorial campaign.

“We’ve got a Senate race that’s going to be interesting, too,” Andrus said. “There are some discussions going on.”

The senator whose term is up next year in 2014? GOP Sen. Jim Risch.

Said Andrus: “The top of our ticket will look a lot better than it has for some period of time.”

Though Andrus was enthusiastic about Balukoff’s run, he cautioned that he isn’t endorsing until after the Democratic primary. “We might have another Democrat come out – who knows?” he said. “I did that once before and got burned, as you know.”

Andrus was a prominent backer of longtime friend Wally Hedrick when he announced his Democratic candidacy for state superintendent of schools in 1998, but Hedrick ended up losing the primary to Marilyn Howard – who went on to serve two terms in the statewide post.

Like Baloo the bear

So, how do you say Balukoff? A.J. Balukoff says it’s like Baloo, the bear in “The Jungle Book” – the accent is on the “lu.” Baloo was the “sleepy brown bear” in the Kipling classic; in the Disney version, he’s the popular character who sings “The Bare Necessities.”

The name is Bulgarian; that’s where Balukoff’s grandparents emigrated from when they came to this country 100 years ago this month.

Also, the A.J. stands for Anthony Joseph, but he’s always gone by A.J. The reason: Anthony is his father’s name and Josephine is his mother’s, so the family already had a Tony and a Jo.

2nd District race in news

Idaho’s 2nd District congressional race is back in the national news, as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launches ads backing U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson and two West Virginia Republicans. The AP reports that business groups are increasingly stepping up to back pro-business Republicans against tea-party-backed challengers.

Simpson faces a challenge from Idaho Falls attorney Bryan Smith, who’s being backed by the Club for Growth, the same national group that promoted former GOP Idaho Rep. Bill Sali when he won a multi-way primary before serving a single term in the 1st District congressional seat.

In response to the news of the chamber’s pro-Simpson ad, the Club For Growth sent out a news release headed “Mike Simpson’s Pro-Bailout, Pro-Obama Stimulus Pro-Debt Allies Try to Save His Flailing Candidacy.”  Simpson is an eighth-term Republican congressman, a dentist and the former speaker of the Idaho House.

Hagedorn sticking with Senate

State Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, has decided against making a run for Idaho secretary of state and instead will seek another term in his District 14 Senate seat. Hagedorn, 57, said in a Twitter announcement, “My gut tells me now is not the right time for a move.”

There’s already a crowded field in the GOP race now that longtime Secretary of State Ben Ysursa has announced he won’t seek another term. Former House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, entered the race even before Ysursa withdrew. Also looking at possible runs are former state Sen. Mitch Toryanski, R-Boise; Phil McGrane, chief deputy Ada County clerk; and Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene.

On the Democratic side, freshman Rep. Holli High Woodings, D-Boise, is considering a run. Idaho’s primary election is May 20.

New insurance signup deadline

Idahoans now have until Dec. 23, instead of the previous deadline of Dec. 15, to enroll in health insurance on the state’s insurance exchange and get coverage by Jan. 1, the exchange announced last week. Amy Dowd, executive director, said the website now has “improved functionality.”

Shooting for lower office

Former Democratic 1st District congressional candidate Jimmy Farris announced last week that he’s running for a seat in the Idaho Legislature, seeking to fill the House seat that will open when Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, shifts to a run for the Senate as Sen. Les Bock, D-Boise, retires.

“This district has had incredible representation over the years, and it’s important that we maintain that strong leadership with a representative who will continue to focus on the needs and interests of not only District 16, but the entire state of Idaho,” Farris said in a statement.

Farris, a Lewiston native and former NFL football player, took 30.8 percent of the vote in his run against GOP Rep. Raul Labrador in 2012; it was his first run for office.

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