Idaho has an important decision to make. Who will we choose to lead this state as governor?
I have experience in the subject. My father was the governor of Idaho for 12 years. He was a Republican, a pragmatist, and one of Idaho’s greatest leaders. I served in the Idaho legislature and dedicated my entire adult life to teaching, running a business, and doing my best to make our community a better place. I am a lifelong Republican, serving my party as a volunteer, candidate, precinct committeeman, representative, and more, with both my time and my money. I’ve always supported the Republican ticket.
But I have been a teacher all of my life and cannot support Gov. Otter.
I’ve known both men for many years, working closely with both. While Gov. Otter is a fine campaigner, A.J. has real skills that he will use to lead the state. Let’s examine their records.
Otter is a career politician. I’ve watched the once brash Libertarian become a symbol of the status quo, and the head of an administration filled with rumors of corruption. It would take an entire column to even list the problems, questionable deals, and missteps. Administration, sweetheart deals with generous donors, prisons, education, tax commission, transportation, insurance exchange, juvenile correction, state contracts, staff & appointees with conflicts of interest, a checkered personal record; the list seems endless. Perhaps some are exaggerated; perhaps some not his fault, but when the same thing happens over and over again, one can only conclude that the boss is somehow involved. Meanwhile, the sum total is wasted tax dollars and unanswered questions.
A.J. Balukoff represents a sharp contrast. Quiet and hardworking, AJ lets his many accomplishments speak for him. A successful businessman, his accounting firm was recognized as one of Idaho’s best. He brought professional hockey to Idaho, built one of our best hotels, and worked tirelessly for his community. He never collected a nickel of government salary for his dedicated work on the Boise School Board. Instead, he quietly led a school district that year after year led the state in nearly every educational category, forming excellent relationships between staff, parents, students, and the community.
Balukoff leads by consensus. He listens carefully, and uses his insight to summarize the issues. More times than not, consensus is reached, and things got done! How often does THAT happen in government these days?
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But if we are to believe the nasty 3rd party commercials, suddenly the challenger is the corrupt politician who needs a script? I’ve learned over the years, in politics it’s the ones with the most to hide who seek to distract.
The Task Force on Education is a classic example of this style. The governor farmed out the work and never attended a single meeting. But when the report was published, he took all the credit! Of course, he won’t pay the significant cost, at least not now (he’ll wait for 5 years, until he’s out of office), but is touting himself as a believer. In other words, the children who were entering school when the economic downturn hit–when the governor slashed public schools by 22% and higher education by 37%–will graduate before Idaho gets back on track. I can only conclude that the governor prefers lip service to action and that Idaho’s children are not a priority to him.
The choice is simple, Idaho can slog through another four years of mediocrity while our schools continue to struggle, or we can elect someone with a proven record of personal integrity and leadership.
This is why I am supporting AJ Balukoff.
Steve Smylie is a life-long educator and former Idaho legislator.