Otter Cites Old Brady Columns
by John Miller, Associated Press
Dam breaching hot topic in Lewiston
BOISE - U.S. Rep. C.L. "Butch" Otter, the Republican candidate for governor, is mining newspaper columns and opinions from Democrat Jerry Brady back to 1989, saying they show his rival has switched sides on issues including Snake River dam breaching to help save endangered salmon.
Brady countered that Otter is "grasping at straws" and has confused Brady's role in stimulating community debate as publisher of the Idaho Falls Post Register with his beliefs as a candidate.
Since early this year, Brady has been accusing Otter of "flip-flopping," such as support and then rejection of a plan to sell Idaho public land to fund Hurricane Katrina relief. Otter campaign manager Jon Hanian said turnabout is fair play.
Otter cited editorials from the Post Register, where Brady was publisher until 2002 and remains president. The paper's "Cheers and Jeers" columns criticize officials including U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and former Gov. Dirk Kempthorne for refusing to consider breaching federal dams in neighboring Washington state to help fish.
"One of the things we daresn't do, and Mr. Brady has been a proponent of, we daresn't destroy this port by tearing out the dams," Otter said during Thursday's debate in Lewiston, whose economy depends on its inland port created by 1975 construction of Lower Granite Dam. "If we lose those dams, we lose this port, and we lose a tremendous opportunity."
When Brady denied supporting dam breaching, Otter countered, "Maybe he's changed his mind."
Brady said he doesn't advocate dam breaching, though he believes it should be part of the discussion on how to restore dwindling salmon and steelhead runs. He conceded his newspaper has consistently supported dam breaching.
"You have to differentiate my opinion as a candidate and the stance that's taken by a newspaper," Brady said Friday. "We figured as a newspaper, our job was to take a strong stand as part of the debate. We allowed other people to have equal time with great consistency. That's the purpose of a newspaper. He wants to run against my newspaper, instead of me."
Some of those watching this latest exchange say with four weeks to go before the Nov. 7 election, the race is at a turning point: What's been a lackluster contest so far between traditional, well-known Idaho candidates could either start focusing on issues - or devolve into dirt-throwing that could turn off voters, said Jasper LiCalzi, a professor of political science at Albertson College of Idaho.
"This is kind of a 'gotcha'-type game," LiCalzi said. "The question is, are they going to do that, or are they going to talk about policies going forward? Voters are in the middle, and they wonder: Is Brady being truthful? Is Otter being truthful? They may start to get discouraged and stay home."
Otter cited passages from "Cheers and Jeers," a regular fixture in the newspaper, which appeared to speak in favor of dam breaching. In a February 2002 column, the newspaper's four-member editorial board, including Brady, wrote that Kempthorne was ignoring state biologists' opinions that "the region probably can't preserve both its fish and the four dams on the lower Snake River."
Otter's campaign cited other examples that he said show Brady is out of step, including one from 1989. Otter said a Brady opinion appeared to indicate he favored relying on Saudi Arabia for petroleum. Now, 17 years later, it's become a hot topic: President Bush has made it a policy to wean the United States from Middle East oil.
"He's grasping at straws," Brady said. "If we want to go into the past, let's do a full explanation of who each of (us) is."
All this comes after Brady has criticized Otter on issues including the Katrina relief bill, a change of heart over an initiative to boost public education funding in Idaho by $219 million annually - Otter initially supported it - and Otter's stance on elk hunting preserves in Idaho. Brady opposes the preserves, while his rival said he supports them but would sign a law banning them, should the 2007 Legislature think it necessary.
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