The Fall of Pat

Otter's snub of longtime GOP faithful a head-scratcher


What did Pat Takasugi do wrong?

After a career dotted with Republican bona fides, Takasugi has been left out in the cold by Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter.

Late last week Otter announced he would appoint Caldwell businessman Curtis Bowers to fill the seat of retiring Rep. Bob Ring, a Republican. Otter got his list of replacement candidates the way every other governor gets them—he was sent three names, ranked in order of preference by the Canyon County Republican Party's Central Committee. At the top was Takasugi. Second down the list was John Rice, an attorney and past candidate for the Canyon County Commission. Third down the list was Bowers.

Otter surprised everyone and hopped to Bowers.

"Interesting, eh?" said Takasugi. "I don't know what I did to tick him off."

BW reached Takasugi in the place he's likely to spend the a lot of time now—his onion fields in Wilder.

It's quite a fall for someone who has been a prodigious donor to party activities, was once named Outstanding Republican of the Year in 2001, and who led the Idaho Department of Agriculture under three governors, from 1996 to 2006. "He's got outstanding credentials," said Ring. "I just assumed it would be Pat. There must be something between the two."

"This wasn't so much a vote against Pat Takasugi as it was a vote for Curtis Bowers," said Jon Hanian, Otter's spokesman. "The governor looked over all the candidates. As is his prerogative, he chose someone other than who the central committee picked."

Still, Bowers' naming has been a head-scratcher around Canyon County political circles.

"Even if you do that, why pick No. 3? Why not pick No. 2?" said Rep. Darrell Bolz, a Republican who serves the same district as Bowers.

Helen McKinney, who serves on the Canyon County Central Committee, said Takasugi was "a very good chairman" of the county party in the early 1990s, who could be counted on for fund raising and party activities.

"He's the governor of Idaho. Ultimately, it's his decision on who he names as a replacement," said Sen. John McGee, a Caldwell Republican.

The naming of Bowers, who describes himself as a family-values-style candidate, is in line with recent Otter appointments to the Legislature. When an opening was created in the Idaho Senate this year, Otter appointed Rep. Shirley McKague of Meridian, then tapped Marv Hagedorn to fill her now-vacant House seat. Both new lawmakers are staunch conservatives.

Takasugi's term wasn't without its troubles. The agency is often at the front of any number of issues that raise temperatures in Idaho. Whether it's the controversial field-burning program that was temporarily banned by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the loss of an Idaho Supreme Court case over feedlot records, or the poisoning of migrant farmworkers in the Treasure Valley, Takasugi's former agency has often been at the center of controversy. Takasugi said he thought he'd "worked pretty hard to get things right with the department."