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Idaho gubernatorial candidates claim farm vote

Sean Ellis

Capital Press

Gov. Butch Otter has received endorsements from several of Idaho's largest farm groups, while the campaign of his main opponent in the May 20 primary election, Sen. Russ Fulcher, says a lot of individual farmers and ranchers side with their candidate.

BOISE — Gov. “Butch” Otter has received endorsements from several major farm groups and his campaign is confident the rancher enjoys widespread support from Idaho’s agricultural community.

But the campaign of his main opponent in the May 20 Republican primary election, Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, says its candidate enjoys the support of a lot of individual farmers and ranchers.

Both campaigns lack actual polling data that shows how Idaho farmers feel about the candidates and it’s Otter who has the endorsements from farm groups.

Otter, who was first elected governor in 2006, has received endorsements from the Idaho Cattle Association, Idaho-Eastern Oregon Seed Association, Idaho Grain Producers Association, Idaho Mint Growers Association, Idaho Sugarbeet Growers Association and Milk Producers of Idaho.

“We grain guys are certainly supportive of Butch,” said Travis Jones, executive director of the Idaho Grain Producers Association.

He has also been endorsed by the Northwest Food Processors Association and Idaho Heartland Coalition, which consists of several farm-related groups.

“I can’t think of any ag group that is not supporting the governor,” said Otter campaign manager Jason Ronk. “I think the governor has a proven track record when it comes to supporting agriculture and all of the agricultural community supports him because of that.”

Rep. John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, a former dairyman, is leading the effort to garner support for Fulcher among the state’s vast agricultural community.

“(Fulcher) doesn’t have the support when it comes to the organizations but I think he has support from a lot of individual farmers,” Vander Woude said. “His support is going to be more of a local, individual type thing.”

Fulcher campaign manager China Gum said, “It’s predictable that lobbyists would side with the governor.”

But when it comes to voting, she added, “the lobbyists do one thing and the people do another. How will the individual farmers and dairymen themselves line up? That will come out on election day.”

Both candidates have farming experience.

Fulcher, 52, grew up working on his family’s Meridian dairy and farm and though he later worked in the hi-tech industry and more recently in commercial real estate, stayed involved with the dairy until it was sold in 1989 and the farm until it was sold in 2005.

Otter, 72, owns an 85-acre ranch and farm in Star and has raised a wide variety of crops, including alfalfa, wheat, barley, corn and potatoes.

He has also served as director of J.R. Simplot Co.’s Food Products Division and president of Simplot Livestock and Simplot International, where he sold french fries in dozens of countries.

Harley Brown, one of the other four Republican candidates for governor, told the Capital Press he doesn’t care about endorsements because “endorsements are little drops in the bucket compared to God Almighty and he’s endorsed me to be president of the United States.”

The other candidate, Walt Bayes, does not have a campaign website and could not be reached for comment. A message was left on his cell phone.


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