Balukoff on wrong side of gun issue

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Published : April 25th, 2014
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FOLLOW : Gem Guns Idaho
Category : Crisis Watch

Democratic gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff acknowledges that he hangs out mostly with his fellow Democrats, and it's likely that he doesn't spend much time outside Ada County. Otherwise, he would know better than to take on the National Rifle Association — the sacred cow of special interests in Idaho.

If he spent time in rural communities, and coffee shops not named Starbucks, he'd know that passions run deep when it comes to guns. Balukoff may well be correct about the NRA's candidate survey being full of loaded questions, but he shouldn't be surprised about that. The NRA, with all its faults, is aggressive and passionate about gun rights and many Idahoans love the organization because of that.

My late step-father, who lived in Dalton Gardens in North Idaho, had three issues that were important to him during election time: Guns, guns and guns. Does that thinking exist today? You bet. Attend one of Rep. Raul Labrador's town hall meetings, and you'd see what people think about guns. Of course, Balukoff would be the last person you'd see at a Labrador town hall meeting - although, if he did, he could learn a lot about the sentiment of Idahoans and why Democrats never stand a snowball's chance of winning elections.

The NRA endorsement is the prized pig of any election season in Idaho. Even those who don't get the NRA endorsement will talk about their avid support of gun rights and the Second Amendment. But almost nobody takes on the NRA — unless you happen to be Cecil Andrus, and Balukoff rightfully acknowledges he is no Cecil Andrus.

According to a story by the Statesman's Dan Popkey, Balukoff was advised by his campaign manager to keep his mouth shut about the NRA. Instead of following that smart advice, he issued a press release saying, “Special interests gave us Idaho's guns on campus law.” 

So under Popkey's byline, Balukoff committed political suicide in the front page of the Idaho Statesman. How stupid can you get?

If Balukoff spent any time observing the Legislature, he'd know the chambers are full of people who think that universities, school classrooms, the streets and public places would be a lot safer if people who knew how and when to use guns were allowed to carry them. These lawmakers don't need the NRA to tell them how to vote on gun issues.

If Balukoff was trying to do an impersonation of Andrus, who took on the gun lobby almost 30 years ago, it was a poor effort. Andrus is about the only person who could get away with calling NRA leaders “gun nuts.” Following someone with the brass of Cecil Andrus is like following Jimmy Fallon with a joke; it falls flat and the audience sits in silence.

The shame of Balukoff's effort is there is so much he can talk about. Idaho is last in wages and first in paying the minimum wage. The Gem State is at, or near, the bottom in almost all measures of education and is last in high school graduates going onto college. The prison system is in dire need of reform. The governor and the Legislature refuse to expand the Medicaid system, which would save hundreds of millions of dollars over time.

He could talk about the leadership, or lack of leadership, in the state. If he wanted to copy Andrus, Balukoff could talk about how he would work with the Republican majority to accomplish great things for Idaho. Andrus was highly effective in his efforts to work with the GOP. He'd blast Republicans for not spending enough money on education, and Republicans consistently would make damn sure their bottom figure exceeded the governor's.

But by wasting political capital on the NRA, there isn't a Republican between Bonner's Ferry and Preston who's going to want to work with Balukoff. Old timers will sit around stewing over the prospect of government idiots taking away their guns.

If Balukoff keeps this up, his next news release should be in the form of a concession statement.

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David Bond covers gold and silver mining equities for a number of national and international publishers from Wallace, Idaho, heart of the planet's richest silver fields, the Coeur d'Alene Mining District.
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