Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is endorsing Boise businessman Tommy Ahlquist in the race to become Idaho’s next governor in 2018.
Romney, who will appear with Ahlquist at a campaign rally in Idaho Falls on Wednesday evening, said in a news release, “Tommy Ahlquist’s unparalleled real-world experience as both a doctor and a successful small businessman uniquely qualify him to provide the executive leadership necessary to help build an even better Idaho – an Idaho where businesses and families continue to thrive. As a former governor, I can tell you that Tommy is uniquely suited to bring new ideas and a fresh approach to leading Idaho as its next governor.”
Romney is considered a high-profile endorsement in Idaho – particularly in the eastern half of the state – because of his goodwill earned across the Rocky Mountain region from his role running the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and his prominence as a Mormon. In 2012 he was the first Mormon to be a major-party nominee for president; more than a quarter of Idaho’s residents belong to the Mormon Church, with the percentage much higher in eastern Idaho.
Two of the three leading GOP candidates for governor of Idaho in 2018 – Ahlquist and 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador – are Mormons.
Republican Lt. Gov. Brad Little also is running; current GOP Gov. Butch Otter isn’t seeking a fourth term after his third term ends in 2018.
Labrador’s campaign spokesman, Scott Phillips, had no comment on the Romney endorsement. “I’m not interested in commenting on that,” he said.
Ahlquist said in a statement, “Our nation and the Republican Party have been truly blessed to have the Romney family’s leadership and service, and I am both humbled and proud to receive Gov. Romney’s tremendous endorsement of my candidacy. Gov. Romney is living proof that real-world business experience paired with conservative principles and hard work makes a tremendous difference in the lives of our fellow citizens.”
Romney is the former governor of Massachusetts, but has deep ties to Utah. He holds degrees from Brigham Young University and Harvard, had a successful business career and has considerable personal wealth. The Salt Lake Tribune, in an editorial this week, urged him to run for the Senate to replace 83-year-old Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, saying Romney could be a “savior for Republicans.”
Staff writer Betsy Z. Russell contributed to this report.
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