Butch Otter is a political survivor and one of the nation's most popular governors.  He's announced that he's seeking a third term.  In normal times one would wonder why anyone would challenge a politician who has been involved in Idaho Politics since 1972.     However we do not live in normal times.  The governor has guided the state through the toughest economy since the Great Depression.  That's more than most governors and certainly better than what the president has done since 2008.  Yet because of the educational and healthcare issues, Governor Otter has two potential challengers that could disrupt his bid for a third term.  Let's take a look at the contenders...

The favorite... Butch Otter is a born politician.  There's not a better governor in the country that works a crowd and has that one on one bond with voters.  That bond will be tested as voters ask him the tough questions concerning Common Core and the state exchange.  However he has access to money, advertising, organization, and the unlimited power of the incumbency.  The smart money is on the governor and begs the question, why would anyone run against him?

The challenger...Senator Russ Fulcher has committed himself to either becoming the next governor or exiting politics, if he fails to unseat Governor Otter.  Fulcher believes the growing grassroots movement that elevated then unknown State Representative Raul Labrador to his improbable win has grown stronger and will push him to victory.  His opposition to the state health exchange has endeared him to state conservatives.  It will be interesting to see how he positions his questioning of the Core Standards and whether or not that will be fodder for opposition radio, TV and direct mail ads.  He'll need to exceed anything the old Labrador coalition achieved.  We all know that Butch Otter is not Walt Minnick.

The looming threat... AJ Balukoff is well known in the business and education communities.  His wealth has been well documented and his campaign will go as far as how much money he donates to it.  We're not talking Keith Allred here, AJ has millions to spend if he wants to go all in.  He'll count on being well financed and the growing power of education issues to be competitive with whoever wins the republican primary.  His path to victory is simple.  Campaign without a challenge and hit the republican nominee like a ton of bricks the day after the primary.  Balukoff could attract some out of state money from the same folks who financed the eventual overturning of Props 1, 2, and 3.  That would be a formidable challenge alone, add to that a bruised and fractured republican party,  we could see a real possibility of the democrats returning to the governors office.

The winners...That would be you the voter.  The more choices the people have will contribute more voices involved in the election process.  The more folks pay attention to what the politicians are saying, the more they'll work to hold them accountable

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.  It's the difference between surviving and thriving.  Let's roll Idaho!