Libertarian gubernatorial candidate John Bujak and his supporters have been stepping up their campaigning online over the past week, with web ads and a new website going after incumbent Republican C.L. “Butch” Otter and painting Bujak as the best choice for disaffected Idaho conservatives.
The first web ad, “Pledge,” casts Bujak as the candidate who will take on lobbyists and the establishment, and the second, “No More,” highlights Bujak’s conservative views – his opposition to Common Core education standards, to wolves, to the state’s health-insurance exchange and to federal control of Idaho lands. Both ads have Bujak speaking at the end, saying he will “return traditional, conservative, Idaho values to the statehouse.”
Bujak's campaign also recently came out with a website, www.liberalotter.com, accusing incumbent Republican C.L. “Butch” Otter of being “too liberal for Idaho,” based on positions such as his support for Common Core and his establishment of a health-insurance exchange. (The exchange was also an issue for Otter in the primary.) The website’s name would seem to be a reference to www.liberalaj.com, which is funded by the Otter-supporting Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry and accuses his Democratic challenger A.J. Balukoff of being too liberal for the state.
Bujak told me when I talked to him about a month ago that he had been hearing from a number of conservatives who have said they won’t vote for Otter but don’t want to vote for a Democrat, either. The Associated Press came out with a story over the weekend, quoting northern Idaho Rep. Vito Barbieri as saying that he expects many disaffected conservatives won’t cast a vote for governor.
The establishment and more conservative wings of Idaho’s Republican Party went through a particularly bruising fight this year. Many of the establishment incumbents – including Otter – faced primary challenges from the right. The convention in June broke down as the two factions fought it out, adjourning without a specific vote on new leadership. This was followed by about a month of back-and-forth over whether Barry Peterson, who was backed by the tea party side, was still the party’s chairman or not. A judge ended up ruling against Peterson, and after that, the party elected Steve Yates as chairman.
Also, Justin Goodman, a Bujak supporter who runs the "Bujak for Idaho" Facebook page, is trying to get the Balukoff, Bujak and Otter campaigns to agree to a Twitter debate. He is proposing a format where each candidate would get three tweets (520 characters) to answer a question, then each would get three rebuttal tweets. Voters could follow using the hashtag #onlinedebate.
Goodman told me via Twitter that he would want to get a moderator from a media outlet – as an avowed Bujak supporter, he said he doesn’t think he should moderate it. So far, only Bujak’s camp has accepted Goodman’s challenge.
The Times-News and other media outlets are trying to arrange in-person debates, but none of them are nailed down yet. The Times-News is trying to hold one on Sept. 24. As of now, that one would include only Otter and Balukoff, provided Otter accepts. Here’s a link to the story announcing it; Bujak posted a comment on the story that you might want to read. (I should probably state here that I am not a member of the editorial board and play no role in arranging debates or setting the format.)