by Kevin Taylor & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & I & lt;/span & f you think it strange a Democrat is making a serious run for Idaho governor, wait until you hear what he has to say: "We are an urban state ... and it's time we acted like what we are," says Democratic candidate Jerry Brady.
The 43rd state has been growing so rapidly that it is beset with land-use and taxation issues, strained infrastructure and pressure on public lands -- even as most residents haven't fully gotten their heads around the paradigm shift.
"The Legislature still thinks we are a rural state -- we're not," Brady says, citing U.S. Census Bureau data that has declared seven "Metropolitan Statistical Areas" for areas with more than 100,000 population around the state in the last six years. Montana, by contrast, has two.
Brady and Republican C.L. "Butch" Otter are the major party candidates (Libertarian Ted Dunlap and the Constitution Party's Marvin Richardson are the others) in a four-way race for governor. Brady and Otter have been tearing into each other on hot topics such as public lands, property taxes and "canned hunts" on game farms. Here are a few highlights, serious and otherwise:
Otter surrounds himself with on-duty Meridian firefighters Sept. 11 to promote his campaign. Brady responds that he would never take advantage of the anniversary of terrorist attacks to score political points.
Otter, in Congress a year ago, co-sponsors a bill to sell off nearly 5 million acres of Idaho public lands to fund Hurricane Katrina relief. The massive whirlwind of outrage from constituents prompts an "I was wrong ..." written apology inside a month.
Last month, during the furor surrounding escaped farm-bred elk possibly contaminating native elk herds, Otter told a sportsman's group he would ban hunts for penned animals, only to have the president of the Idaho Elk Breeders Association say that's not what Otter told him. Idaho has 78 elk farms and 14 penned-elk hunting camps, but the shooting of penned animals is anathema to most Idaho hunters.
During a well-attended debate Monday in Boise, just as Brady was getting into the topic of why he opposes a proposed ban on gay marriage, the fire alarm went off and the building was evacuated.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & he 64-year-old Otter, who has a dash of Ronald Reagan and who favors blue jeans and ostrich-skin cowboy boots, has been a bit of a throwback in Washington, D.C. He told an interviewer for the Congressional newspaper, The Hill, that even in his third term in the House, he keeps his watch set on Idaho time.
Otter, the state's longest-serving lieutenant governor (four terms), is also one of its most colorful politicians. He had enough gumption that, even while wielding a shovel on a road crew, he pursued a relationship with a cute chick in a red BMW sports car and wasn't dissuaded when she turned out to be the daughter of the state's most powerful man, J.R. Simplot.
He was married to the potato heiress for nearly 30 years until the union dissolved in 1992 -- the same year Otter was convicted of DUI after a night of drinking with cowboy buddies (his hat blew off and he swerved his Jeep to try and retrieve it, he says), and also the year he won "Mr. Tight Jeans" at Boise's Rockin' Rodeo bar. He later said he thought he had entered a line-dancing contest.
Brady, 70, is making his second run at governor. Former governor and Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus, a longtime friend, Brady says, urged him to run a last-minute campaign against Dirk Kempthorne in 2002. Despite the late entry, Brady pulled 42 percent of the vote. He was a key aide to the late Sen. Frank Church in the 1960s and later held other federal posts.
He's running a full 19-month campaign this time and, while trailing his heavily funded GOP opponent in total dollars, Brady out-raised Otter $145,000 to $117,000 (in round figures) during the reporting period after the primaries.
The Inlander asked both candidates a few questions:
If you win, what's in it for North Idaho?
Brady: "I'm from Idaho Falls so I'm aware of the so-called State of Ada where the Legislature acts as if [the Boise area] is the only critical part of the state." He promises to open offices in Coeur d'Alene and Idaho Falls and actually be in them regularly.
He says he will maintain Kempthorne's approach to fund highway construction via GARVEE bonds because road improvements are critical to North Idaho.
Otter: "That's a question that's plagued Idaho for a long time." He plans to revive a Gov. John Evans practice of hosting "Capital for a Day" visits where he and select staffers will set up shop in a different city each month. Otter also vows to keep the GARVEE bond funding for highway construction.
Amber Deahn, the waitress who helped capture Joseph Duncan, was making a base salary of $3.23 an hour. What are your thoughts on minimum wage?
Brady: "For years, Idaho recruited businesses by saying we have the lowest wages in the West. That's not anything to brag about. We cannot be doing right by our children if we keep defending low wages."
Otter: "I am not a big fan of government-imposed wages."
What were you about to say on gay marriage when the fire alarm went off?
Brady says he opposes gay marriage but is more opposed to legislative bans on gay marriage that are just so much showboating. A better use of time and effort would be to address the crises in traditional marriage. "The high divorce rate has terrible consequences for women and children," Brady says.
Otter had already made his remarks in support of the ban... but on an issue that is probably more heart-wrenching to him, on Tuesday evening, the hard-core property rights advocate came out in opposition to Prop. 2, which would limit government on so-called "takings."