Otter: Guess I'll Wait

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Just as Larry Craig was busily invalidating our News story this week, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter was also carrying on thinking that he had a senate seat to fill.

Not so fast. With Craig now reconsidering his resignation, Otter's search process has been interrupted.

Otter said today he was "surprised" and "concerned" to hear that Craig was reconsidering the matter.

"The part I'm trying to play right now is to have a seamless transition," Otter said. "I would like to get a person in a position to obviously take the opportunity to work in the office, with the staff."

Now, he said, he's having to put all of that on hold. Although he hasn't done any formal interviews, he said he had been talking with several people interested in the post, including U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson.

"If there's no vacancy, I'll have gotten to know several people a lot better," Otter said.

Popular speculation is that Otter might tap Lt. Gov. Jim Risch to fill Craig's seat. Risch has already indicated an interest in running for Craig's seat, if he decides against running for re-election.

But Otter said two other Republicans, David Leroy and Dane Watkins, have expressed an interest in running for the seat as well, and Otter said he was loathe to give Risch an unfair advantage in what should be an open primary next year. If he were to take up the post in the event of a Craig resignation, Risch would have about 14 months in the job, and be able to run as an incumbent.

"Basically what I'm doing to the Republican Party is giving him a leg up," Otter said.

Of course, Craig's reconsideration of his decision to resign puts the whole situation into limbo, something Otter hopes to resolve in a meeting with Craig, as soon as it's possible.

"If there's no vacancy, there's no appointment," Otter said.

But, he said, he would continue to research the question and prepare for an orderly transition anyway.