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Zachary Hauge

IACI's new political director loves the action



Zachary Hauge doesn't like to lose; he played every sport imaginable growing up. He's also pretty good at crunching numbers; he began college as an accounting major. But soon enough, his two passions collided and he concluded that he wanted to help manage political campaigns. With his taste for winning still very much alive, Hauge rarely backs losers. He assisted the campaigns of Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, Lt. Gov. Brad Little and State Controller Donna Jones, as well as running the year-round campaign office for Rep. Mike Simpson--all Republicans.

On Wednesday, Aug. 1, Hauge began running an even bigger campaign, in a new position as political director for the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry.

Do politics run in your bloodline?

Not exactly. My dad teaches political philosophy and history, but I had zero interest in politics growing up. I was more into sports. I was pretty good at math, so I went to the University of Idaho to be an accountant. But after two years, I realized that was the exact opposite of what I wanted to do for a living. So I changed my major to communications.

But you took a side step in 2006.

By my fourth year in school, I decided I wanted to go into politics. The Idaho Republican Party was looking for somebody to run their front office. I did that for four weeks, and then I quickly got offered the opportunity to run State Controller Donna Jones' re-election campaign. I accelerated much quicker in politics than I ever expected.

Do you know how Jones is doing? (Jones was critically injured in a May 25 car crash.)

She's recovering at home now. I think it took everyone a while to truly understand how serious her accident was.

When you managed Jones' campaign in 2006, were you a fish out of water?

Absolutely, but we were successful. Soon after, I got involved in the ballot initiative to establish the College of Western Idaho. Later, through a company called Meridian Resources, I managed fundraising for campaigns for the governor, lieutenant governor and several state legislative races. In 2010, I went to work full-time to manage Rep. Mike Simpson's campaign.

You stayed on in that position after the 2010 election. How soon after the vote does a candidate need to begin working on his or her next campaign?

It's a year-round effort if you want to be successful. And there's a benefit to that; you're constantly communicating with constituents.

When you were hired to be the organization's new political director, what did IACI President Alex LaBeau tell you the group was looking for?

IACI has done quite a bit with its political action committee, the Idaho Prosperity Fund. They want to take it to the next level: recruiting candidates, finding business-friendly candidates on both sides of the aisle in national races, state races and even local elections.

How do you handicap the 2012 races for the Idaho House and Senate?

There's a lot of opportunity. In the Senate, up to a third of the body is new. And three or four chairmanships are going to be up for grabs. I'm sure you've read that House leadership is in a bit of turmoil.

How politically independent is IACI?

IACI is governed by a 39-member board. It's an organization not beholden to the state legislature. And every single segment of Idaho's business community--large and small--is represented in IACI's membership.

How important is the Affordable Care Act to its membership?

IACI was pretty instrumental in trying to implement an Idaho health-care exchange, but the state decided not to do anything during the last legislative session, so we're at a crossroad.

Conventional wisdom is that IACI is one of the most-powerful organizations at the Statehouse.

I've read that. When it comes to business policy, IACI has been extremely influential. I've seen what they've done and it's impressive.

Would you ever run for office?

Absolutely not.

But you know how to win better than almost anyone.

Exactly, and that's why I have no interest in being on that side.

Would you recommend it?

It takes a certain personality and that's not me.

But you like the action.

It's fantastically fun.


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