Flanked by a legion of children, urging Idahoans to vote "Grandpa for Governor," A.J. Balukoff, current school board member for the Boise Independent School District, part-owner of Boise's Grove Hotel, former CPA and board member to more than a dozen Idaho nonprofit organizations, announced his campaign to become Idaho's next governor.
"We can do better," Balukoff repeated throughout his first stump speech. "My brother, sister and I are the first of our grandfather's descendants to earn a college degree. I want those opportunities available to every Idaho child."
A number of Balukoff's children and grandchildren have attended, or are currently attending, Boise's Hillcrest Elementary School, where the candidate chose to launch his campaign in the brisk December air.
"I can't tell you how excited I was to learn of A.J.'s plans to run for governor," said Boise Mayor Dave Bieter who added that he was Balukoff's "warm up band," before introducing the candidate. "He's devoted years to making Boise schools great, often in spite of, not because of, the Legislature, the governor and the superintendent of Public Instruction."
But Balukoff doesn't want Idaho school chief Tom Luna's job. He took aim at incumbent, and presumptive, candidate, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter for being largely responsible for inadequate funding for public schools.
"These cutbacks have led Idaho to the bottom in nearly ever measure of student achievement," said Balukoff. "We can do better."
Otter will first have to face competition within his own party as Meridian Sen. Russ Fulcher has already announced his intention to challenge the governor in the May GOP primary.