Politics & Government

Unknown Democrat makes inroads in Idaho GOP territory

HAGERMAN, Idaho — If the election were held today, Bruce Glauner would vote to re-elect Gov. Butch Otter.

But the retired Idaho Power Co. executive, who runs a ranch in Fairfield, said Democrat Keith Allred could still change his mind. "I don't know anything about him," Glauner said.

He's not alone. Many Idahoans still don't know much about the former independent and Harvard professor who left the bipartisan group, "The Common Interest," to challenge Otter as a Democrat.

The two main candidates got an early chance to stake their campaign claims this month in their first debate at the Idaho Falls City Club.

Otter said he had diversified the state's economy, expanded educational opportunities and stood up to the federal government in his first four years.

Allred pointed to the first-ever cut in the education budget, which he said Otter could have avoided, and portrayed Otter as a lifelong politician who caters to special interests instead of "everyday Idahoans."

Heading into Idaho Falls is usually like invading enemy territory for Idaho Democrats, but Allred's strategy all along has been to woo frustrated moderate Republicans and sway them to his side.

Allred went to high school in Twin Falls and is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is the dominant faith in both areas. But the Magic Valley hasn't backed a Democrat for governor in 20 years and eastern Idaho, outside of Pocatello, has been solidly Republican for decades.

And Allred is making inroads, said Sheila Olsen, a strong supporter of Otter in Idaho Falls and one of the most prominent Republicans in the region. She said Allred's faith has given him an opening.

"It could go either way," she said.

Read more of this story at IdahoStatesman.com