MERIDIAN (AP) - A conservative Republican lawmaker from Meridian has announced that he's running for governor of Idaho.
Senate GOP caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher made the announcement Saturday, saying he's deeply concerned about the state's direction and disagrees with Gov. Butch Otter's decision to establish a state-run health insurance exchange under the federal Affordable Care Act.
He said in a statement that as governor, he would begin with "reversing Governor Otter's efforts to implement Obamacare here in Idaho, then providing a patient-powered alternative."
The announcement sets up the 51-year-old Fulcher to challenge the 71-year-old Otter in the May 2014 Republican primary. Otter has yet to formally announce his campaign plans, but he's been raising money and telling supporters he intends to seek a third term.
In August, he named veteran political organizer Jayson Ronk as his 2014 campaign manager. Appointing Ronk also cements Otter's footing with the established, pro-industry and deep-pocketed wing of Idaho's Republican Party.
"The governor has a campaign plan in place that we intend to execute," Ronk said Saturday.
Ronk declined to say when Otter might make a formal announcement about his plans. He also declined to respond to any of Fulcher's statements.
Otter is on a trade mission to Russia with a 45-member Idaho delegation, and in the last few days has been in the Russian capital of Moscow.
Otter's new competitor is a former Micron executive now in the commercial real estate business.
"I understand that good leadership isn't achieved by simply claiming to be conservative or having common sense," Fulcher said Saturday. "Instead, it means enacting policies that limit the role of government in our lives, reduce the tax and regulatory burden on families and job creators, provide access to our resources, protect our state's sovereignty and safeguard our individual rights."