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Idaho guv race pits rancher against Harvard teacher

By John Miller

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Oct. 23 2010 11:42 p.m. MDT

BOISE — In Boise's downtown, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter stared down a bank of TV cameras and tore down Washington, D.C. Wolves were the target of his ire this time, but it could easily have been health care reform or wilderness or the U.S. Forest Service.

Otter had just ended state wolf management under the Endangered Species Act, after U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar ruled out a public hunt. Enough is enough, said the Republican, who sees states — particularly in the Rocky Mountain West — as the fingers in the dike holding back a flood of federal abuse.

"They've not kept one of their promises," Otter said. "It's just time for us to draw the line and say, 'It's over with.'"

For Democrat Keith Allred, his rival's wolf decision Monday shows why Idaho needs a new leader: Otter shuns working collaboratively, or consults only narrow special interests, before tackling problems that demand cooperation, Allred said.

In 2009, Otter pushed millions in gas tax and registration fee hikes, something Allred calls misguided as the economy stumbled and Idaho residents lost their jobs. Otter supported Exxon Mobil Corp.'s bid to ship oil equipment through north central Idaho to Canada's tar sands, without consulting residents now fighting the big loads.

And Otter's administration didn't do enough to inform dentists last month they were being booted from a state Medicaid program, Allred said. On Tuesday, dentists were allowed back in.

"In each of these cases, the decisions turned out to be terrible ones, because Butch Otter didn't know what he was talking about," said Allred, who taught public policy at Harvard University before returning to Idaho in 2003.

With Otter, voters Nov. 2 have a lean 68-year-old former U.S. representative who would make Idaho a bulwark in the states' rights fight. This year, he was the first governor to require his state to sue over President Obama's mandate for all residents to eventually buy health insurance.

Karl Stressman, head of the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association in Colorado Springs, met Idaho's governor six years ago on a California trail ride. They've become friends and team-roping partners, including at Pocatello and Caldwell rodeos this year.

Otter, a former football player at the College of Idaho, doesn't like to lose, Stressman said.

"The guy has got grit," Stressman said. "You just get that feeling when you are around him."

And in Allred, voters have a 46-year-old mediator who ran a nonpartisan government reform group, The Common Interest, before his first political run.

Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor, worked across the Charles River in Cambridge, Mass., from Allred's offices at the Kennedy School of Government. Both were leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in predominantly Catholic Boston.

But Christensen, a lifelong Republican, said it was Allred's approach to bringing together opposing sides that caught his eye. For instance, Allred in 2001 helped in remedying a century-old fight between American Indians and non-Indians over how to prosecute crimes on north central Idaho's Nez Perce Reservation.

"He practiced what he taught, which is: We've got to figure out what we have in common and not focus on the things that divide us," Christensen said.

Allred faces a steep challenge.

His fundraising has been respectable — he's brought in $732,000 this year, to Otter's $1 million — but there hasn't been a Democratic governor in Idaho since Cecil Andrus won in 1990. The Legislature is three-quarters GOP; all seven statewide seats are, too. In 2006, Otter won 52 percent, while Democrat Jerry Brady had just 44 percent.

Otter and Allred differ on policy.

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