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Michael Strickland

Below is my column from today's Idaho State Journal.



"Political insiders and pundits who presumed Idaho is on its way to the Butch Otter coronation got their comeuppance," said editor Marty Trillhaase, adding that many have "treated the election as a foregone conclusion and Democrat Jerry Brady’s candidacy as Quixotic."

Brady, the Democratic candidate for governor, faces Republican Butch Otter and third-party candidates Ted Dunlap and Marvin Richardson in the November election.

Otter is "the Republican nominee in an overwhelmingly Republican state," Trillhaase continued. "He hasn’t lost an election since 1978. He’s
extremely good on the stump. He’s an incumbent congressman who parlayed his organizational and fundraising advances into a bloodless primary victory.
Gov. Jim Risch, who then was sitting in the No. 2 chair, opted not to even challenge Otter in the primary and is seeking his old job as lieutenant

In his speech to the 2006 Idaho Republican Convention, Otter, said: "my friends, ... Thank you for helping me to develop the experience and confidence in the proper role of government to ensure that the notes from MY
trumpet ring with clarity and certainty for each of you, for our Republican Party, and for all of Idaho. ... ON TO VICTORY IN NOVEMBER!"

"Mr. Otter, take note: when favorites lose elections, it is because unseen undercurrents of the population come out better than expected on election
day," I wrote in my June 18 column in the Idaho State Journal. "Republicans in Boise need to court and embrace Idaho's ever-increasing diversity, if the
party wants to be effective as government leaders in this new information

That new diversity in our Gem State is not only ethnic, it is diversity of political opinion.

Eight years ago, a credible poll said that Democratic candidate Robert Huntley had no chance against Dirk Kempthorne. As a result, support and cash donations disappeared.

The chemistry is different in 2006. In a recent press release, Brady said: "We’ve built amazing momentum. We’ve pulled within 10 points in the latest independent poll, we’ve challenged Butch Otter on the issues important to Idahoans and won, and we’ve taken huge steps forward in raising the money necessary to beat Otter in November."

1st Congressional District nominee Larry Grant, D-Fruitland, will receive national attention in his race against Rep. Bill Sali, R-Kuna. "Larry will
attract money, which will help float all boats," Brady said.

"However you measure it, Brady outperformed Otter in the latest fundraising period," Trillhaase said. "He raised more money. He got more of it from Idaho and more of it in smaller checks. And while Otter still has a larger
bank account, Brady’s resources are competitive."

"Money buys air time on television, but retail politics still dominate," according to a Post Register editorial. Where you get money is more important than how much. An Idaho voter who contributes $50 will vote for
that candidate. A Washington, D.C.-based political action committee may deliver $10,000, but no voters."

In Idaho, anger about property taxes rising under Republicans and a respectable slate of Democratic candidates could make 2006 the closest election since 1994, said columnist Dan Popkey. Idaho Democrats got clocked
in 1994. They now are their best shape in a dozen years.

Boise newspapers spoke about how after Sali's primary win, Grant started getting calls from groups that normally support Republicans. Among them were
the Associated General Contractors, who met with Grant on June 2. The meeting included Executive Director Michael Gifford and AGC lobbyists Phil
Reberger and Pat Sullivan, longtime GOP heavyweights.

But Butch Otter is no dummy. "Now, most of you probably know that I’m
Catholic," he said to the convention, showing both his awareness of the situation and his ability to appeal to broad consitiuencies. "I graduated
from what now is Bishop Kelly High School in Boise. Of course the ideal for many Catholic kids is to attend college at the University of Notre Dame. I
guess my opponent in this race went to school there, but I feel pretty good about the education I got at what now is Albertson College of Idaho over in my hometown of Caldwell. Still, there have been some pretty smart folks come out of Notre Dame."

Idaho's Democrats are banking on a new strategy tested in Virginia last fall. Consultants calculated a score for every voter and targeted those drawn to the Democratic platform. This winnowing technique is especially
useful in states like Idaho, that do not have voter registration by party.

"Idaho is a place where the ordinary farmer calls his senator Larry, his congressman Mike and his governor Dirk or Jim. So doing something right in
the field matters," the Post Register editorial said.

"Every two years, Idaho Republicans put on a show about how they mustn't take elections for granted, despite their dominance," Popkey added. "This
year, they mean it."

Julie in Boise

Michael, thanks for stopping by and posting this. It is certain to be a fascinating year in Idaho politics.

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