Idaho Governor Holding Off Tea Party Challenger

May 21, 2014 AT 10:50 AM

In a primary election that highlighted a big rift in Idaho’s Republican Party, voters on Tuesday appeared to be backing two-term Gov. Butch Otter over a stiff challenge from tea party Republicans disillusioned with his leadership.

Otter ran a low-key campaign as he was challenged by Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, acting the part of the favored incumbent and agreeing to only one face-to-face debate. Otter’s insistence on also including two long-shot candidates in that face-off attracted national attention to their antics and prompted Fulcher to declare it a “mockery.”

Fulcher’s pitch to repeal Idaho’s state health insurance exchange, dump core standards for school achievement and try to take over federal lands resonated with a wing of the party, but couldn’t dislodge one of the state’s most-elected officials ever. If Otter’s lead holds, he’ll face Democrat A.J. Balukoff in November in his bid for a third term; Balukoff is a millionaire businessman and the longtime chairman of the Boise School Board.

Otter, 72, has served two terms as governor, three in Congress, and 14 years as lieutenant governor.

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