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Idaho Democrat once again throws hat in gubernatorial ring

November 2, 2017

FILE - In this Sept. 6, 2014 file photo, Idaho Democratic gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff greets football fans before a college football game in Boise, Idaho. The businessman and partner in the Idaho Steelheads hockey franchise has once again filed to run for Idaho governor as a Democratic candidate in 2018. Balukoff previously put up nearly $3 million of his own money to run for the same office in 2014. (AP Photo/Otto Kitsinger, File)

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho businessman Anthony Joseph “A.J.” Balukoff announced Thursday that he is running as a Democrat for governor in 2018, following an unsuccessful attempt nearly three years ago in the Republican-dominant Gem State.

Unlike his 2014 gubernatorial kickoff — which featured more than 20 of his children and grandchildren in front of a Boise elementary school near his home — Balukoff, 71, quietly filed paperwork to run for the top elected office with no formal campaign launch. Instead, Balukoff says he’s going to spend the new few weeks fundraising and organizing his campaign.

“We’re going to do something bigger later,” Balukoff said. “Now, we just want to follow the law as we get things started.”

Balukoff unsuccessfully ran for political office for the first time in 2014 as a Democratic gubernatorial candidate against Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter.

Balukoff spent more than $3 million of his funds only to win nearly 39 percent of the vote to 54 percent for Otter. Balukoff’s willingness to throw such a hefty amount of his own money into his campaign raised eyebrows from some critics who argued he could have donated to other Democrats to help secure more winnable races.

All seven of Idaho’s statewide elected officials have hailed from the GOP since 2006. The last time Idaho voters elected a Democrat to the top seat was former Gov. Cecil Andrus in 1990. Andrus, who passed away earlier this year, served four non-consecutive terms in Idaho.

Balukoff has served on the Boise School Board since 1997 and works as an accountant and businessman who co-owns Boise’s Grove Hotel and the CenturyLink Arena. He is well-known for wearing bow ties and is a prominent member of the Mormon church.

So far, Balukoff has no major Democratic opponent in the upcoming May primary. The only other Democrat who has filed to run for the governor’s seat is Troy Minton, a homeless Boise man.

Meanwhile, three high-profile Republicans have filed as gubernatorial candidates: U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, Lt. Gov. Brad Little and Boise businessman Tommy Ahlquist.

Ahlquist contributed $5,000 to Balukoff’s campaign in 2014 — the maximum amount under Idaho’s campaign laws. Ahlquist has since said that he made the move out of friendship and later donated to Otter and voted for the Republican governor.

Otter has said he won’t run for a fourth term in 2018.

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