Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Clear Night 54° Clear
News >  Idaho

AdWatch: Hockey ad seeks to balance barrage of negative messages in Idaho governor’s race

BOISE – There’s more skating and hockey-playing than political images in the latest ad in Idaho’s governor’s race, as Democratic candidate A.J. Balukoff dons an Idaho Steelheads hockey uniform for his final campaign commercial of the race. “In politics, taking shots at your opponent is just business as usual for some,” Balukoff says in the ad, “but skating around Idaho’s problems with cheap shots won’t get results. … It’s time Idaho families get a fair shot.” The commercial takes aim at negative ads that have been airing in the race, both from outside groups backing GOP Gov. Butch Otter and from Otter’s campaign, whose latest ad accuses Balukoff of “falsely smearing” Otter over a private prison scandal. It comes as an array of messages from various groups are airing in Idaho, as the race comes down to the wire ahead of Tuesday’s election. “I think it’s a clever ad, and it addresses the negative advertising that he’s been a recipient of,” said Jim Weatherby, Boise State University professor emeritus and longtime observer of Idaho politics. “It might attract some voters who have tuned out to all the negative ads that are so prominently displayed right now.” The ad emphasizes that Balukoff has run a positive campaign, Weatherby said, “which may or may not be to his benefit, in the overall scheme of things.” According to campaign finance reports, Balukoff’s and Otter’s campaigns have each spent more than half a million dollars on broadcast advertising in October alone. That’s not counting independent ad campaigns against Balukoff from the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, a business lobbying group that’s running a campaign trying to brand Balukoff as “Liberal A.J.,” and from the Republican Governors Association, which has poured $720,000 into a campaign seeking to tie Balukoff to President Barack Obama, including three TV ads in the past month. Other groups, including the Idaho Republican Party and an eastern Idaho Otter supporter named Michael Batt, have weighed in with radio ads, mailings and more, touting Otter and bashing Balukoff. “I have stayed true to a promise I made to myself and to my family that I would run a clean campaign that we could be proud of when all is said and done,” Balukoff said in a statement. “I have not attempted to distort Butch Otter’s record or tie him to unpopular politicians. I have only held him accountable for his record.” He called his final ad “creative and fun,” and said it “shows my fellow Idahoans that I won’t dive into the mud of politics as usual.” Balukoff objected Wednesday to new radio ads airing in eastern Idaho as part of an independent campaign that portray themselves as being from Balukoff’s campaign, and say, among other claims, that he wants to “repeal the balanced budget amendment.” Those ads, placed by Batt at a cost of more than $10,000, are “completely untrue,” Balukoff declared. According to campaign finance reports, the ads were placed on a group of Idaho Falls radio stations owned by eastern Idaho businessman and prominent GOP activist Frank VanderSloot; Batt is the former registered agent for VanderSloot Farms and VanderSloot Legacy Properties LLC. Batt didn’t return a call seeking comment Wednesday. Tim Hurst, chief deputy Idaho secretary of state, said political ads are required by state law to identify who funded them. The radio ads say at the end that they’re funded by “Bantt LLC.” That’s a limited liability company that Batt incorporated in 2011; the inclusion of that line meets the requirement of the state law, Hurst said. “It may violate something, but it doesn’t violate the Sunshine Law,” he said. The Republican Governors Association also has had a cameraman following Balukoff around the state since Sept. 27, Balukoff’s campaign spokesman, Mike Lanza, said Wednesday. On Tuesday, a brief video clip shot by the cameraman was featured in a press release from Otter’s campaign. It features the cameraman asking Balukoff how he voted in the 2008 presidential election, and Balukoff responding, “I’ll have to see if I can remember.” “While voters want straight talk, Balukoff continues to avoid concrete facts, even when it comes to simple questions about his voting record,” the Otter campaign’s release said. “While he can’t recall who he voted for, it is apparent that Balukoff supports a liberal agenda including higher taxes, Obamacare, and the re-introduction of wolves.” Lanza said the cameraman is still following Balukoff, and has attended his events from eastern Idaho to Coeur d’Alene. “A.J. was not interested in talking to this guy,” Lanza said. “He didn’t perceive this guy as either a journalist or a member of the public who deserved a serious answer.” Asked about the 2008 election, Balukoff said he voted for Barack Obama in 2008, and then for Mitt Romney in 2012. He said he considered backing Republican John McCain in 2008, but decided against it when McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. “He thought that was a very bad choice, and that pushed him over the edge for Obama,” Lanza said. “He has always been someone who doesn’t vote a straight party ticket.” Balukoff donated to Romney’s campaigns both in 2012 and in 2007. A wealthy Boise businessman and longtime president of the Boise School Board, Balukoff has self-funded much of his campaign, putting in more than $3.2 million of his own money. Otter, a multimillionaire, hasn’t put any of his own funds into his campaign, but has raised more than $2 million in campaign donations, as well as benefiting from the independent expenditures.
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.