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A.J. Balukoff

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A.J. Balukoff
A.J. Balukoff.jpg
Former candidate for
Governor of Idaho
Elections and appointments
Last electionNovember 4, 2014
Term limitsN/A
Prior offices
Boise School District Board of Trustees
Personal website
Campaign website
A.J. Balukoff campaign logo
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A.J. Balukoff was a Democratic candidate for Governor of Idaho in the 2014 elections.[1][2] A.J. Balukoff lost the general election on November 4, 2014.


Balukoff has served as a member of the Boise School District Board of Trustees since 1997. He is a businessman and a certified public accountant.[3]



See also: Idaho gubernatorial election, 2014

Balukoff ran for election to the office of Governor of Idaho. Balukoff won the Democratic nomination in the primary on May 20, 2014, but was ultimately defeated by Republican incumbent Butch Otter in the general election.[2] The general election took place November 4, 2014.


Primary election
Governor of Idaho, Democratic Primary, 2014
Candidate Vote % Votes
Green check mark transparent.pngA.J. Balukoff 65.3% 16,751
Terry Kerr 34.7% 8,887
Total Votes 25,638
Election Results via Idaho Secretary of State.
General election
Governor of Idaho, 2014
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Republican Green check mark transparent.pngButch Otter Incumbent 53.5% 235,405
     Democratic A.J. Balukoff 38.6% 169,556
     Libertarian John T. Bujak 4.1% 17,884
     Independent Jill Humble 2% 8,801
     Constitution Steve Pankey 1.2% 5,219
     Independent Pro-Life 0.7% 2,870
     N/A Write-ins 0% 95
Total Votes 439,830
Election Results via Idaho Secretary of State.

Campaign themes

Balukoff's campaign website listed the following themes for the 2014 race:

When I talk about my vision for reinvesting in Idaho's public schools, reinvigorating our moribund economy, and restoring accountability in state government, some people ask me for details. They agree that, for years under Gov. Otter, Idaho has been in a race to the bottom nationally in education investment and job opportunity.

But they ask: What will I do to get our great state back on the right track?

You have clicked on this page because you want details about my vision for a better Idaho. I'm excited to lay that out for you.

I've been a businessman for 40 years, and for 17 years I've served as an unpaid member of the Boise School Board of Trustees--in a district that is, by many measures, one of the best not just in Idaho, but in the country. For too many years, I've watched with growing concern as our state government's chronic disinvestment in public schools has devastated communities across Idaho. I worry about the future facing my grandchildren and all of Idaho's working families and children.

We cannot build strong communities and an economy that creates good-paying jobs unless we truly commit to making education our state's top priority, and not just give lip service to that promise. I firmly believe that will not happen until we return accountability and transparency to state government, and to accomplish that, we need to restore balance to government.

I'm running for governor because I want to see Idaho move forward again.

As a certified public accountant, businessman, member of the board of many non-profit organizations, and a school board trustee, I've learned that success often comes down to falling back on the basics. I've outlined here the three steps I believe Idaho must take to move us toward realizing our potential as more than just a good place to live, but also a state where hardworking people can earn enough to support their family. I'll elaborate below.

1. Invest in Education

Over the past several years, our K-12 public schools suffered the first cuts in state history and our colleges and universities sustained the sixth-deepest cuts in the nation. This has been an unmitigated disaster for our education system and our economy. I want to restore adequate and stable funding for our schools, create an environment in which school districts are able to hire and hold onto qualified teachers, and let local school districts decide for themselves how to spend their money and educate their children.

2. Rebuild Our Economy

I will refocus state economic policy to help existing, Idaho-based businesses grow, because we have more than 40,000 small to medium-size businesses in Idaho and 80 percent of job growth comes from them. Growing that sector will also help ensure that every Idahoan has the opportunity to earn a livable wage.

3. Restore Balance and Transparency to State Government

Our one-party system has removed accountability from state government, allowing the scandals that suck up millions of dollars that could be spent on our state's many critical needs--such as our schools. We should never, ever tolerate corruption from elected officials--period. As governor, I vow to restore balance by appointing a bipartisan administration and conducting an open, transparent government.


Here's an important point about my vision for Idaho: It doesn’t cost any more than what Gov. Otter has spent leading our state to the bottom nationally in many measures of educational and economic success. There is no justification for talking about raising taxes until we've assured people that every dollar we bring in is spent efficiently.

The truth is, Idaho brings in billions of dollars a year in revenue. We can afford to invest more in education by resetting priorities.

What Idaho needs--and has never had--is a long-term, strategic plan of the kind that's common in business and that the governor's own education task force has suggested our local school districts should adopt. As governor, I will help craft a plan for where we want to be and what it will take to get us there.

Here are my thoughts on what that should look like.


Ask superintendents what their biggest challenges are, and the answer is consistently:

1. Lack of adequate and stable funding.

2. Inability to recruit and retain qualified teachers.

Fixing what ails our education system begins with honoring our state constitution's mandate to “maintain a general, uniform and thorough” system of public schools. Our Idaho Supreme Court has ruled that the state isn't doing that. It’s time to get to work and figure this out.

As I see it, improving our schools to create better opportunities for our young people and strengthen our economy requires three important steps:

1. Restoring adequate and stable funding and making education truly the top funding priority, including fully funding the recommendations of the Task Force for Improving Education--and ensuring the details of those recommendations are driven by sound data, not political agendas. When then-Gov. Jim Risch and the Legislature shifted education funding from property taxes to less-stable sales and income taxes in 2006, it greatly destabilized schools fiscally (as some of us predicted it would at the time) and led to the profusion of supplemental levies (totaling over $1 billion under Gov. Otter)--which do not give districts the ability to plan long-term because they only last two years. Having talked to legislators from both parties, I believe many understand the critical need for adequate and stable funding. We just haven’t had a leader that is willing to roll up his sleeves and find a solution. I will.

2. Creating an environment that helps districts attract and keep qualified teachers. That includes increasing teacher pay, setting a tone of respect for educators from state leadership, and making sure that educators are largely driving education policy, not politicians. No successful business tries to recruit top workers by paying the lowest wages and excluding them from operational decisions in the workplace.

3. Restoring to districts local decision-making control over spending priorities and policies that dictate how education is delivered. The state should establish goals and objectives for districts, such as raising the rate of graduates advancing to post-secondary education, but give districts flexibility to figure out how to reach the goals.

With school districts ranging in size from a few students to over 37,000, a one-size-fits-all approach to education does not work in Idaho. Most decisions about education are best made at the local level, rather than dictated by politicians in Boise who tie strings to money allocated to local districts. Local school districts need flexibility in setting spending priorities. For example, border districts have a harder time holding onto teachers who can earn 25 to 50 percent more by driving 30 minutes farther to work. Those districts should be able to allocate more funding into salaries if that's what they need.

In the district where I serve on the school board, we have created some of the best schools in the nation by investing our dollars wisely, figuring out what works for our students, and hiring the best educators and letting them do their job. That's a model our state should follow.


I have traveled our state for months, listening to folks from Bonners Ferry to Driggs, Idaho Falls to Kuna, McCall to Coeur d'Alene and everywhere in between. I've heard the human stories behind the stark statistics.

Let's look at a key economic barometer. Between 1986 and 2006, Idaho’s per-capita personal income grew at an average rate of 5.1% per year, and there were only five states with per-capita personal income that grew faster than Idaho’s. From 2006 to 2013, Idaho grew at a slower rate than all but three states.--corresponding with Gov. Otter's two terms--that growth rate plummeted to 1.4% per year.

That's not the Idaho I want to see.

I have created hundreds of jobs and built businesses that have a ripple effect on the local economy. Gov. Otter makes a great show of his efforts to attract big, out-of-state corporations to Idaho, but that hasn't reaped much positive impact because we're competing with 49 other states and myriad countries. Gov. Otter is a fan of tax incentives to big corporations, but the record shows that those come at the expense of our schools, and those companies may cut those jobs in a year. Idaho is a top-five state for business birth rate, but also for business mortality rate. We can increase survival rates by working closely with businesses during the crucial first three to 10 years.

In my business ventures, success occurs when you follow basic rules: Invest in the future, use resources efficiently, and hire and keep the best people. As governor, I will shift our focus toward data-driven strategies that we already know will work to create more jobs in the short term, and over the long term build a workforce that attracts higher-paying jobs while rebranding Idaho as a place where more people want to live and work and raise their children.

1. For starters, we must focus on existing Idaho businesses. Eighty percent of job growth comes from existing small to medium-size businesses. These owners are committed to their communities and pay good wages because they want to keep good people, not have to constantly replace workers and train new people. There are about 40,000 small businesses in Idaho. If we listen to their needs and figure out how to help them grow, and 10 percent of them hire one person next year, that's 4,000 new jobs. My administration will listen to businesses and invest in our economy to ensure that we have reliable roads and bridges, high-speed rural broadband, and tax policies that truly create jobs without harming schools or essential needs.

2. We must also build a workforce with the skills to attract jobs that pay higher wages. As business leaders have said for years, that begins with investing in schools (as I described above). We cannot move the wagon down the road until we've fed the horse.

3. Over the long term, we must improve Idaho's "brand," or image outside our state. We cannot continue cultivating an image of Idaho as a place of intolerance and fringe, whacky politics. As governor, I will be the state's best ambassador. If we really hope to attract educated people who can build businesses that pay good wages, we must project to the rest of the country an image as a state that opens its arms to all people, that welcomes diversity instead of turning our backs in embarrassment over it, and that cares about supporting the institutions, like public schools, that form the foundation of strong communities.

We can--and must--do much better in this area.


Cronyism and illegal, insider deals in state government not only gives our state a black eye, it creates an uneven playing field for businesses and cost taxpayers millions of dollars. I don't accept the cynical response that "everyone in politics does it." We cannot, in the same breath, complain about politicians and tolerate corruption in government. Idahoans have a right to know their elected leaders will act with integrity.

I will rid state government of insider deals and cronyism. I vow to run a transparent state government and guard against waste of tax dollars that comes with cronyism and corruption. Among the steps I will take to ensure complete openness will be to:

1. Hire a bipartisan staff, because I care more about competence than party affiliation.

2. Meet weekly with the media to answer questions.

3. Require that anyone involved in a state contract disclose all political contributions.

4. Ensure that all appointments reflect the people of Idaho in terms of age, gender, and social and cultural diversity.

5. Surround myself with people of integrity. This may sound trite, but it's the most important item on this list.

In all of my endeavors, from business to non-profits and as a school board trustee, giving stakeholders a voice at the table has always been crucial. This is how I've always operated with employees, colleagues, executives, and fellow board members, and it will be my modus operandi as governor. Anyone can lead a state to the bottom nationally; it takes a leader with the wisdom to surround him- or herself with smart, talented people to run a state well.


I understand that some of my fellow Idahoans may like Gov. Otter or have voted for him in the past. But Idaho has not become a better place under his leadership. We feel it in our pocketbooks, we see it in our schools, and we know it in our hearts and minds.

Today, Idaho is harvesting the fruit of years of one-party rule, and it's rotten. Single-party government quashes accountability, encouraging abuse and corruption. We must get Idaho back on track. I will do just that.

I will propose budgets that make education the top priority and restore stable funding for our schools. I will draw on my experience building businesses and helping lead organizations and a school board to refocus state government on strategies that create good-paying jobs and reinvigorate our lackluster economy. I will eliminate the cronyism and corruption that result in millions of tax dollars wasted and erodes faith in government.

If you've read this far, then I thank you for caring about our state's future. I hope that I've convinced you that Idaho badly needs new leadership in the governor's office.

I've never been interested in a career in politics. I'm not running for personal gain. Besides my career in business, I've pursued a parallel career as a volunteer with organizations and the school board, trying to make my community better, because I believe in community service. Now I hope to do that for all of Idaho.

The stakes are high. We simply cannot afford four more years of going in the wrong direction. We have to improve our schools. We have to improve our economy. And we have to do it now.

I have 33 grandchildren and I want them and all of Idaho's children to have a great education and a good job here in Idaho.

My campaign slogan is words I live by: Work hard, tell the truth, and put people first. Idaho can do better, but it’s going to take new leadership.

That is why I’m running for governor. [4]

—A.J. Balukoff's campaign website, (2014), [3]

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