Printed on: September 25, 2013


This joke's on ... who?

Rumors surfaced last week that Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter would not seek a third term. That startling announcement was to be made at the same time Lt. Gov. Brad Little declared his intention to run for Otter's abandoned post.

The whole thing was, of course, malarkey. Otter is seeking another four years for a variety of reasons. Among them is the prodding of the business lobby, which likes Little but fears he would not survive a Republican primary with its primary antagonist, Congressman Raul Labrador.

It made no sense that Otter would announce anything in September; perhaps March, with Labrador committed to a congressional race and Little able to coast to the GOP nomination.

Even though Idaho's political insiders saw this nonstory for what it was -- a way to draw attention to Little's announcement that he wants a part-time job with a staff of one and salary barely above that of a beginning teacher -- they could not stop talking about it.

Tellingly, in all those discussions, here's a sentence you did not hear: "I hope it's not true." And when the gag was revealed, hardly anyone said, "We dodged a bullet there."

Little is regarded as one of the GOP's bright lights, articulate, pragmatic and intelligent. Otter is well-liked, but after seven years on this job and more than three decades in public office, fatigue is setting in.

Idahoans know Otter. They have lived his decisions and leadership style. They know he shows up for work less often than he used to and doesn't seem fazed by the women in his administration making less than the men. His constituents are aware that public education has suffered under Otter's watch and college is less affordable; minimum-wage job growth and tax cuts for the rich are the new norm.

Otter governed during a deep recession and wants to lead in better financial times. That's understandable. But so is the desire for change that fed last week's rumors, the need to hear new voices expressing different ideas.

We see it in Idaho Falls. The old guard is on its way out and interest in municipal elections -- and issues -- is higher than anyone can remember.

Give Otter credit for getting a crowd to Little's announcement in Emmett. But it makes you wonder. After he wins a third term, will Otter come to realize that like so many politicians, he overstayed his welcome? That his voice is no longer being heard? That he's not leading but cruising to the finish line?

If so, he may look back on that Wednesday in Emmett and view it as so many of Idaho's political insiders did: not as a joke, but a missed opportunity.

Corey Taule