Balukoff: a likely gubernatorial candidate?

AJ Balukoff
A.J. Balukoff

Will longtime Boise School Board member A.J. Balukoff make a run for governor in 2014?

We’ll know for sure Tuesday — but all the signs point to yes.

He has scheduled a news conference for 11 a.m. at Boise’s Hillcrest Elementary School.

Balukoff, a Boise businessman, has served on the school board since 1997. He has been considering a gubernatorial run on the Democratic ticket for several months. On Monday, at least one Democratic activist took to Facebook to say that Balukoff has already announced a run.

“I think the Facebook world has some inaccurate information,” Democratic Party spokesman Dean Ferguson said Monday afternoon. “What has happened so far, is nothing.”

However, as Boise State Public Radio’s Emilie Ritter Saunders noted Monday, Balukoff’s campaign website strongly hints that he’s planning to run.

Republican incumbent Butch Otter has not formally announced his plans to seek a third term — but he has hired a campaign manager and has said he plans to run again. On Friday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is scheduled to appear at a Coeur d’Alene fundraiser on Otter’s behalf.

State Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, formally jumped into the GOP race on Nov. 23 — with a statewide series of announcements criticizing Otter’s support of a state health insurance exchange.

The spoiler alert announcement?

Here’s the text of the Balukoff campaign “announcement” that briefly made the rounds on Facebook Monday afternoon. Balukoff will announce his election plans Tuesday.

Businessman and Boise School Board Chairman A.J. Balukoff announced today that he will run for Idaho Governor. Balukoff made the announcement at Hillcrest Elementary School in Boise.

“My experience in business, education and public service is what Idaho needs for effective executive level leadership,” Balukoff said. “I am independent-minded and have a track record of solving problems and building success.”

Balukoff, who has started and grown successful businesses, has also been active leading nonprofit and community organizations such as the Boise Public Library Board, the St. Luke’s Hospital Board and the Boise School District Board. AJ has often been recruited by community and non profit organizations because of his track record of financial management and helping organizations thrive. His business credentials include founding one of the largest locally-owned accounting firms in Idaho, creating a successful chain of health clubs and building and operating signature projects like Boise’s Grove Hotel, Century Link Arena and the Idaho Steelheads hockey team. He and his wife, Susie raised their 8 children in Idaho and now have grandchildren in the public school system.

Education is a driving passion for Balukoff. “My father only had an eighth grade level of education and he and my mother stressed the importance of education to me and my siblings,” he said. “That focus on education allowed me to succeed in business and I want every child in Idaho to have the same opportunities that I did.”

Balukoff decided to run after watching current Idaho politicians starve Idaho’s public education system, which has fallen to 50th in the nation in the amount we invest in our students. The results have been disastrous: Idaho students are 47th in going on to higher education and only 5 of Idaho’s 70 largest high schools have over half their graduates prepared for college. These same state politicians have also created an economic climate that now has Idaho leading the nation in the percentage of workers earning minimum wage. As a businessman and community leader, Balukoff believes that 20 years of one-party rule has created a pay-to-play culture in Idaho government and has led to poor policies that harm the state’s economy.

“Idaho’s next governor needs to have the integrity to do the right thing regardless of party and the experience to get things right,”, said Balukoff. “I have independence, the honesty, and the competence to make Idaho a better place for our children, our families and our businesses. Over the next 11 months I look forward to meeting fellow Idahoans as I make my case for being the best person to be Idaho’s next governor.” 

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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