For Lt. Gov. Brad Little, the inevitable has become the quasi-official.
Little is expected to file paperwork Wednesday to set up a gubernatorial campaign committee. Bill Dentzer of the Idaho Statesman broke the story Wednesday.
The filing makes Little the first candidate to formally enter the 2018 governor’s race.
Little’s move can hardly be classified as a stunner. Since 2009, when Gov. Butch Otter appointed the Emmett rancher and state senator to the vacant lieutenant governor’s post, Little has been viewed as a gubernatorial candidate in waiting.
The bigger question is who will join Little on the ballot — starting with the May 2018 Republican primary. The open race to succeed the retiring Otter will almost certainly draw a crowd of Republicans. And like Otter in 2014, Little will most likely face opposition from the GOP’s conservative wing.
Little was easily re-elected lieutenant governor in 2010 and 2014. Despite those statewide wins, Little only expects so much of a bump from his part-time lieutenant governor’s role.
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“I fully expect to be the underdog,” Little told Dentzer.
There is a recent parallel to Little’s decision to jump in early. In late 2004, Otter announced his plans to run for governor in 2006 — even before then-Gov. Dirk Kempthorne said he would not be seeking re-election. Otter’s move gave him a jump on other prospective GOP rivals, such as then-Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, who had made no secret of his interest in the top job.
And Little isn’t even the first statewide officeholder to address the 2018 election. In a December interview with Idaho Education News’ Clark Corbin, state superintendent Sherri Ybarra said she will seek a second term in 2018.