Some GOP insiders were left wondering where Butch Otter stood in the 1st Congressional District race for a few hours Friday afternoon after he failed to mention his party's nominee for the race, Raul Labrador, in a keynote address to delegates gathered at the state convention in Idaho Falls. Late Friday night, in another speech to Idaho Republicans at the Melaleuca ranch, Otter said that he didn't mean to intentionally snub Labrador.
A report appearing in several media outlets, including Huckleberries Online and the Idaho Statesman Friday afternoon speculated about the snub, questioning if there is still bad blood between the two men due to Labrador's clashes with the governor during the 2009 legislative session over Otter's proposal to raise the gas tax and car registration fees. Labrador also ran afoul with Otter when he helped bring GOP chairman Norm Semanko to power at the party's convention in 2008. Semanko ousted former chairman Kirk Sullivan, who had Otter's backing.
Otter tried to silence the questions Friday night as Republicans gathered for dinner at the ranch. "I want there to be no mistake in this room and I want there to be no mistake in the state of Idaho," said Otter. "I endorse Raul Labrador for Idaho's 1st Congressional District. When I get excited like that, I get away from my notes. It was in my notes and I neglected to do it." Otter's story is corroborated by a copy of the governor's speech his campaign aides handed to IdahoReporter.com. Otter's speech contains the following excerpt near the end:
In case any of our friends in the news media missed that – yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’m wholeheartedly endorsing Raul Labrador today and will do all I can to help him take back the seat I left four-and-a-half years ago to return to Idaho to be your governor. Let’s not let Idaho’s one vote in the 1st Congressional District be the vote that puts Nancy Pelosi back in the position of speaker.
In a private interview following his afternoon address, Otter told IdahoReporter.com that he "wholeheartedly" endorses Labrador. The two men were also seated next to one another at the dinner.