Guest column: The non-politician politician

Ahlquist may be a political newcomer, but he’s mastering the art of a typical ambiguous politician, writes Chris Carlson.

For someone who claims not to be a politician, doctor and developer Tommie Ahlquist is displaying an amazing aptitude to master the art form quickly. He is speaking out of both sides of his mouth on two issues, gaming and a proposal to breach the four lower Snake dams to ensure Idaho’s salmon and steelhead runs survive.

On both he should have done more research than he did for his comments manifest a misundersanding of the issue that is simply unacceptable.

Asked this fall if, like Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, he would have vetoed a bill in 2015, only in a timely manner (Otter failed to act in time), which repealed state acquiescene to video historic horse races passed in 2013. Ahlquist said yes.

He saw the issue primarily as one of state “good faith,” and felt it was wrong for Idaho to encourage “small” businessmen to invest the millions in equipment and employee training and then jerk the rug out from under them. Whether two of his large contributors, Larry Williams and Harry Bettis, who were large investors in the conversion of Les Bois, influenced his stance is for the reader and the voters to decide.

Asked about the underlying but obvious issue that wasn’t this an endorsement of gambling forbidden in Idaho, Ahlquist opined that it was up to the courts and lawyers to decide if it fell under the prohibition in the Idaho Constitution. For Idaho’s gaming tribes (the Coeur d’Alenes, the Nez Perce, the Sho-Bans and the Kutenai’s) there is no doubt that these historic horse racing videos are gaming. They view it as unfair competition and are adamantly opposed which Ahlquist was told first hand when he met with the Coeur d’Alene’s chairman, Chief Allan, this past August.

As one legislator put it upon looking at the “one armed bandits” of historic videos with all the bells and whistles: “If it walks like duck, talks like a duck, looks like a duck, it’s a duck.” Ahlquist apparently doesn’t think so and will leave it to the legal beagles. In a move to have it both ways, though, he says he philosophically is opposed to any form of gaming (other than Idaho’s Lottery, presumably).

Coming from a self-styled “leader” one wonders just what his definition of leadership really is.

Similar sentiment regarding speaking from both sides of his mouth is being expressed by those who attended a Idaho Wildlife Federation forum at Boise State on December 2. Asked where he stood on the issue of breaching the four lower Snake dams if a federal judge ordered such as the only way to save diminishing salmon and steelhead runs that come back to Idaho, Ahlquist indicated he was open to listening to all sides on the issue.

Even a willingness to listen was too much for the dam lovers who push backed hard prompting a clarification op-ed from Ahlquist published in The Idaho Statesman stating that a desire to listen was not an invitation to the dam breachers, that breaching was off the table. He stated in his clarification that he had always been opposed to breaching, something he did not state at the “Hook and Bullet” forum.

Ahlquist then displayed his ignorance on the issue by indicating that breaching was a threat to Idaho water rights.

Come again? Nice try at muddying the water but simply not true. Right now Idaho water contributes to augmented flows that assist smolt in getting to the ocean more quickly. Breach the dams and there is no longer a need for augmentation, something one would expect a candidate for the Idaho governorship to know.

Whoever on his staff “ghosted” the misleading op-ed ought to be reprimanded. If one didn’t know, Alquist is not much of a fan of President Trump (He supported Florida Senator Marco Rubio for the presidential nomination) one might think he was taking a cue and dropping from his vocabulary phrases such as “fact-based, science-based, vulnerable populations,” etc.

He is mastering the art of a typical ambiguous politician, though. Now drop the posture and quit throwing stones at your opponents for being what you are aspiring to be.


Carlson is a native Idahoan and a retired newspaper journalist who writes a weekly column about Idaho politics for Ridenbaugh Press. His books “Medimont Reflections” and “Cecil Andrus: Idaho’s Greatest Governor” are available through Ridenbaugh Press at www.ridenbaugh.com.


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