With Gov. Butch Otter stepping down, Idaho voters in 2018 will pick a new governor.

On the Republican side the race is heating up.

In the last couple weeks I’ve personally received two mail pieces from Boise-area businessman Tommy Ahlquist. On-line he has a website (here) and he is spending on pay-per-click Google ads. He also has a video out.

The video, in particular, focuses on “Obama’s Regulations [that] Killed Job Growth” and stakes out his ground as a small business conservative.  Those are probably not bad angles for a Republican primary.

Ahlquist has a deep war chest (he speaks of spending $5 million of his personal funds) and it looks like he is trying to get out in front of the other candidates. He is still pretty fuzzy in media interviews, claiming there are a lot of good ideas bouncing around in Idaho, but not being terribly specific himself.  I presume that will change.

Lt. Gov. Brad Little is considerably boosting his profile. Last week he appeared at a conference in Pocatello on regional earthquake risks and has been popping up at events all over in my part of the state.  I presume he is doing the same statewide.  He is also organizing on the ground. He also has a website (here) and is advertising on Google.

I am seeing an emerging theme from Little focused on economic development. Last week he was in Magic Valley pushing economic diversification. He was quoted in the Twin Falls Times News, “Never forget who brought you to the dance . . .Particularly agriculture, in this part of the state. But always have your eyes wide open about other opportunities that might avail themselves to do that critical diversification that you need going forward.”

Little is smart, savvy and has a solid campaign team. His speaking skills have improved considerably. He’ll maximize his current role to garner maximum attention and, of course, he has Otter’s active backing.

Former State Sen. Russ Fulcher waged a vigorous challenge against Otter in 2014. He is not on the sidelines. Earlier in the month he did several events in North Idaho.  He also has a website (here). 

He is trying to carve out the conservative niche in the race.  Last week, he appeared at the official announcement for Lieutenant Governor by former Idaho Falls State Rep. Janice McGeachin (a staunch conservative).  He has recently tried to claim the crown as the sales-tax-off-food champion.

The concern about Fulcher has always been whether he can compete financially with the others in the race.  We’ll know better later this year.

U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador is the wild card.  Is he in or is he out?  Most in Washington, D.C., think he is coming back to Idaho to run for governor.  Labrador continues his high national profile but is playing coy on a run.  He did a highly visible town hall last week in Meridian .

I am intrigued by his colleague Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s (R-Utah) decision to step down from his prominent role as chair of the House Oversight Committee presumably to run for Utah Governor in 2020.  Might Labrador shortly do the same?

If that’s his plan, he better not wait too long. Ahlquist will have defined himself through paid media in the next few months.  Little is using his position to attract attention and vacuum up support.  Fulcher is trying intently to lock down the conservative wing of the GOP.  A late decision by Labrador could leave him far behind.

The other wild card is the Democratic candidate.  Word is that deep-pocketed A.J. Balukoff is considering another run.  There may be others.

Expect the race to becoming increasingly visible this year as the candidates jockey for position.

Steve Taggart is an Idaho Falls attorney specializing in bankruptcy (www.MaynesTaggart.com).  He has an extensive background in politics and public policy.  He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..