BOISE – Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s latest campaign commercial features a real estate broker crediting the GOP governor with turning around the state’s economy and looking out for “all industries.”
“Our governor, Butch Otter, has had a lot to do with us coming out of that downturn,” Realtor Tracy Kasper, of Eagle, says in the ad. It shows scenes of home construction, manufacturing, and the sun breaking through the clouds over familiar Idaho scenes. “He had to make some tough choices; we all did. He took a hard stance and had to be a big watchdog for all industries.”
“Those are pretty extravagant claims,” said Jim Weatherby, emeritus professor at Boise State University and a longtime observer of Idaho politics, “with no support in the ad, with no documentation or even a specific example of what he accomplished.”
Added Weatherby, “The average voter might say: ‘Well, is he a watchdog for me, too?’ ”
The commercial, which began airing a week ago in southwestern Idaho, hasn’t yet aired in eastern or North Idaho, but it likely will, said campaign spokeswoman Kaycee Emery. “It’s a testimonial ad,” Emery said. “I think that was just her feeling as a small business owner. She felt, very much so, that he’s been a watchdog for them. She didn’t give specifics.”
Emery said the commercial doesn’t cite any examples or hard facts because “it was completely opinion and a testimonial piece.”
It follows on the heels of an Otter campaign ad in which the two-term governor claimed that Idaho’s economy is “on a roll,” saying “facts don’t lie” and quoting selected statistics suggesting the state is booming. Idaho has struggled as it’s come out of the deep recession that started shortly after Otter took office in 2007.
Idaho currently is seeing faster job growth than many states, but it fell further during the recession and has more ground to make up than most. The state has fared particularly poorly on personal income, which economists consider a measure of a state’s prosperity and overall economic well-being.
In 2006, Idaho’s per-capita income ranked 42nd among the 50 states, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It fell to 45th in 2008 and 49th in 2009, where it has remained since. In 1995, Idaho ranked 37th.
Otter’s Democratic opponent, Boise businessman A.J. Balukoff, has been particularly critical of Otter’s handling of the economy and education; state schools suffered big budget cuts during the downturn that still haven’t been fully restored.
Weatherby said Otter’s ad, like his previous one, appears designed to leave a positive impression about Otter and the economy. After Otter came under fire for his claims in the previous ad, Weatherby said, “It’s hard to attack this one because it really doesn’t say much substantively.”
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