Butch Otter was a man on the move last week. Freshly released from service in Congress, he had flown home, arriving at 1 a.m. Thursday. He'd pleaded with his majority leader in Congress for a pass to return home to Idaho, he said, because he had things to do in Idaho. The Idaho Legislature was organizing itself for its annual session, which begins next month, and his predecessor, Gov. Jim Risch, was busily writing up a budget and preparing to make the move back to his old post as lieutenant governor.
So, late in the morning last Thursday, Idaho's next governor spent most of the day shuttling about the State Capitol.
Otter, who is over six feet tall, is hard to miss in the Statehouse. He cannot seem to make it very far without a fan or well-wisher congratulating him on his election.
Although he looked lost as he darted about the marble hallways, he easily reverted into the backslapping politician his fans love.
In the Statehouse, especially in the Senate, many of those backs may have needed an extra pat or two from Otter.
According to reports filed with the Idaho Secretary of State's Office, Otter has many friends in the Senate's Republican leadership, and also in its up-and-comers.
The Senate is led by President Pro-Tem Robert Geddes, a Republican from Soda Springs, who gave Otter $1,500 over the course of the campaign. Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, an Idaho Falls Republican, gave Otter $750.
They were both outdone by Sen. Brad Little, a Republican from Emmett widely seen as a potential statewide candidate somewhere down the road. Little gave Otter $1,600 to help him win the election in November.
Caldwell Republican Sen. John McGee was also kind to Otter; the new chairman of the Transportation Committee gave Otter $1,300, over the course of four donations, during the campaign. But Sen. Joyce Broadsword, who is the vice-chair of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, gave Otter $1,500 over the course of two donations. Another committee chairman, Sen. John Goedde of Coeur d'Alene, gave Otter $1,000. Goedde is the chairman of the Senate Education Committee.
Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, a Republican from Huston who is the chairwoman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, gave Otter $1,500 in two donations.
But over in the House, that body's leadership was far stingier with Otter.
Republican leaders in the House, combined, gave less than your average committee leader in the Senate.
New Speaker of the House Lawerence Denney? Not a dime to Otter.
His opponent for the Speaker's chair, Rep. Bill Deal, a Nampa Republican, gave Otter $550, the most of any leading member of the Idaho House. Deal is once again the chairman of the powerful House State Affairs Committee.
House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, a neighbor of Otter's in Star, gave Otter $260. His assistant majority leader, Rep. Scott Bedke of Oakley, gave Otter $300.
The House Republican Caucus chairman, Rep. Ken Roberts of McCall, did not give any money to Otter.
All of these leaders, however, were outdone by the man who has been sitting in the governor's chair for the last six months. Risch, who had his own campaign to run, still found the financial wherewithal to give Otter $2,500 over the course of two donations.