(Note: This is the first of a three-part interview with Lt. Gov. Brad Little.)
When someone becomes lieutenant governor, a natural progression would seem to be to become governor one day, at least that’s what Lt. Gov. Brad Little told IdahoReporter.com in May 2011.
Little said nearly a year ago that someone doesn’t run for the office if he or she doesn’t possess the skill set needed to be governor. “You wouldn’t be lieutenant governor if you didn’t think you had the skill set, or you wanted to work on the skill set to be governor,” Little said, “That’s part of the job description. Now, have I made a decision about what I’m going to do when there’s a vacancy in the governor’s office? No, I haven’t. And that’s one of the reasons I continue to travel around the state and work in different areas where I haven’t worked before so I have a grasp of the skills relative to the job that’s going to be opened up in two or six years.”
Well, it appears it may be the six-year figure Little referred to, not the two-year figure, which would necessitate the current governor, Butch Otter, to step down after two terms in office. But Otter has thrown a curveball in announcing that he would seek a third term in 2014, eyeing his place in Idaho political history in being elected to three consecutive terms. Only Robert Smylie, from 1954-66, served three terms in a row. Smylie lost in the GOP primary in trying for a fourth term.
The announcement by Otter was a bit shocking to some, and rumors have swirled that his reason for running again was to win, then step down, handing the reins over to his good friend, Little. But Little says he believes Otter wouldn’t be running if he isn’t planning on being there for a full term.
Little called running for office, particularly governor, a “contact sport” and said Otter is “acting and governing like he’s going to run again, because a lot of the decisions you make are long term. You start proposals that take more than one or two or three years to implement.”
For his part, Little says he has a lot of work to do as lieutenant governor. “I also spend a lot of time going around the state, by myself or with the governor, looking at what’s important and what we need to do to continue to drive the economy to improve the standard of living for the residents of Idaho.”
When the 2012 Legislative session ended, so did the look of it. Many legislators are not running again and others are attempting to switch from the House to the Senate. In fact, 26 House members are retiring, with 10 of them running for seats in the Senate.
Little says change is to be expected during a year of reapportionment. “We always have a 25, to maybe as much as 40 percent, turnover in a reapportionment year,” he said.
Because some of the districts are so different, the political landscape can change a great deal. “All the districts have been changed,” said Little. “Incumbents have to run against incumbents. Incumbents lost half, three-quarters of their district in many instances. You know, they had a district that they were very familiar with, and now it’s vastly different. That always causes turmoil.”
Little said that because of reapportionment every 10 years, turnover in the Idaho Capitol is a political reality. He said also said that he is an advocate of term limits, but that he wants them to apply to Congress as well and there is a constitutional issue in that at the federal level the Constitution would have to be amended to accommodate them.
Although he is known for his duties as lieutenant these days, Little has had hands-on experience in Idaho politics in two key positions prior to his current role.
Little was the president of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry (IACI), often regarded as the most influential lobbying group in Idaho. He was a state senator from Emmett from 2001-09, serving as majority caucus chairman in 2003. He has been lieutenant governor since being appointed to the post by Otter in January 2009 then was elected to the office in 2010.
With all of these high-profile experiences, Little says what makes Idaho great is that elected officials listen to those who send them to Boise, and make decisions—sometimes tough ones—that will benefit Idaho in the long run.
“People’s initial, visceral reaction sometimes is, ‘Don’t give me any short-term pain,’ but, we’re fortunate enough that the people of Idaho have a good enough relationship with the elected officials, whether it be legislators, county commissioners, state constitutional officials, that if you explain to them, and they explain to you, that we want to be in this for the long term, make the right decisions—not overspend, don’t have any debt—make investments and decisions that are going benefit the youth of today so that they can be productive members and productive workers going forward, we’ll make the right decision.”
Coming Tuesday: Little discusses rainy day funds, ethics legislation and transportation needs in the state.