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Balukoff considers running again for Idaho governor

Republican Incumbent Butch Otter, right, and Democratic Challenger AJ Balukoff laugh as they compliment each other’s ties after the gubernatorial debate hosted by the City Club of Idaho Falls at the Idaho State University Bennion Student Union Building Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014. (Pat Sutphin / Idaho Post-Register)
Republican Incumbent Butch Otter, right, and Democratic Challenger AJ Balukoff laugh as they compliment each other’s ties after the gubernatorial debate hosted by the City Club of Idaho Falls at the Idaho State University Bennion Student Union Building Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014. (Pat Sutphin / Idaho Post-Register)
By Kimberlee Kruesi Associated Press

BOISE – Boise businessman and school board member Anthony Joseph “A.J.” Balukoff said Thursday he’s considering running as a Democrat for governor in 2018.

Balukoff spent more than $3 million of his own funds in a loss to Gov. Butch Otter in 2014. Otter won nearly 54 percent of the vote to less than 39 percent for Balukoff.

Otter has said he won’t seek reelection next year.

Balukoff, 71, said he’s willing to launch another campaign, but his wife is unsure. He plans on making a final decision this fall.

“It’s something I would like to do, but I’m not going to do it without my wife’s support, that’s key,” Balukoff said. “I think I would have a better chance this time than when I ran against a popular incumbent.”

The outcome in the 2014 race wasn’t a surprise in Republican-leaning Idaho, where all seven statewide elected officials have hailed from the GOP since 2006.

Balukoff is a trustee on the Boise School Board – the state’s second-largest school district – as well as an accountant and businessman who co-owns Boise’s Grove Hotel along with CenturyLink Arena and the Idaho Steelheads minor league hockey team.

So far, the only other Democrat who has filed to run for the governor’s seat is Troy Minton, a homeless Boise man.

Meanwhile, three high-profile Republicans have filed as gubernatorial candidates – U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, Lt. Gov. Brad Little and Boise businessman Tommy Ahlquist.

Ahlquist contributed $5,000 to Balukoff’s campaign in 2014 – the maximum amount under Idaho’s campaign laws. Ahlquist has since said that he made the move out of friendship and later voted for Otter.

“We’ve been friends for a long time and he gave me the money because of our previous relationship,” Balukoff said. “I think it’s interesting that he now calls himself a conservative, as though being a conservative is such a virtue.”

Balukoff has his own ties to the Republican Party. As a Republican in 2008, he backed then-U.S. House candidate Walt Minnick during the Democrat’s successful run against Bill Sali.

Balukoff has said he has never registered as a Republican.

Election records show he didn’t vote in 2012’s closed primary, the first time Idaho voters were required to choose an affiliation before casting ballots.

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