When Boise Weekly heard that Idaho conservatives were seeking action against Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter over the botched $60 million Idaho Education Network contract, one name kept coming up: Russ Fulcher.
The soon-to-be-former senator from Meridian ran against Otter in the Idaho GOP primary, and raised many of the same concerns over the IEN contract--as well as the squareness of the deals involving private prisons operator Corrections Corporation of America and Medicaid provider Molina.
BW reported Nov. 26 that the nonprofit Tax Accountability Committee was mulling a request to the Legislature that a grand jury be empaneled to investigate the state's business dealings with regard to the IEN, which a 4th District Court judge ruled in November were illegal. Fulcher could not be reached for comment on that story, but in a phone conversation Nov. 28, he told BW that while he isn't involved in the proposal being considered by the TAC, he's "not shocked" that it's out there. Frustration over bad business deals was what motivated him to run against Otter in the first place.
"I did what I did for a reason. I did not make the decision lightly to challenge a member of my own party. To some that's like filing for divorce," he said. "At the same time, I knew these things were wrong and I know that there were some approaches that I thought would be wiser."
Otter's Democratic challenger, A.J. Balukoff, ran pointed campaign ads highlighting the governor's involvement with the IEN contract and other deals, but Fulcher took a softer touch in the primary.
"There were plenty of advisers telling me to amp it up, amp it up, amp it up. But as a campaign tactic, I didn't feel comfortable making the focal point on the mud," he said.
Fulcher pulled 67,694 votes (43.1 percent) to Otter's 79,779 (51.4 percent) in the primary, which drew 26.1 percent of voters.
"It's unfortunate that the taxpayers are picking up the brunt for a lot of that [so far the state has spent more than $12 million in connection with the deal]. Elections have ramifications," he said. "I may very well be back."