Republican Gov. Butch Otter accused Democratic challenger Keith Allred of being beholden to unions in their first debate Thursday, and Allred claimed Otter is a career politician who doesn’t care about education.
Jabs continued in news releases after the debate at Idaho State University in Idaho Falls.
Allred blasted Otter for not giving more money to school districts. "If you vote for Butch Otter, you'll get more of the same," said Allred. "I'm not satisfied with overcrowded schools. I'm not satisfied with four-day school weeks. I'm not satisfied with students who have to share textbooks."
Allred repeatedly stressed public education is a requirement of the Idaho Constitution. "As governor, I'll focus on Idaho's priorities, just like Idaho's Founding Fathers directed: I'll make a thorough system of public instruction a priority of my administration."
Otter accused Allred of misleading voters by selecting parts of the Idaho Constitution he chose to quote. He repeatedly reminded his challenger that the Constitution also requires the Legislature to balance the budget and not go into debt.
Idaho Republican Party chairman Norm Semanko slammed Allred for saying that he would work with the federal government within the confines of recently-passed health care reforms to create a state-run health care system. "As Gov. Otter stood up for states' rights, including opposition to the mandates of President Obama's health care monstrosity and the dictates of the federal Endangered Species Act, Allred lectured the crowd about the virtues of trying to cut deals with the federal government instead."
The GOP chairman said the difference between Otter and Allred on education spending is the governor and state lawmakers made difficult, but necessary, cuts in 2010. "Throughout the debate, Gov. Otter's experience and understanding that to balance a budget, you don't spend more than you take in, stood in sharp contrast to Allred's open checkbook philosophy," said Semanko.
The two men will debate several more times before the general election. According to the latest Rasmussen Reports poll July 21, Otter leads Allred 53-36, though his lead slipped by a few percentage points in the months running up to July. An independently commissioned poll released this week shows Otter with a 46-36 lead, with 14 percent of respondents undecided.
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