2018      Primary                 Lost to late entry Paulette Jordan 58 41

2018      General Election   Jordan lost 60 — 38

 A Stranger in Paradise, A Candidate without a primary opponent, But does he have a chance?

  • It is not so much that AJ (Anthony Joseph) Balukoff is a Democrat.  There are Democrats in Idaho.  Not a lot of them, but enough so that they are not strangers. Ending in the mid-1990s, Democrat Cecil Andrus dominated the political landscape, mostly as Governor, for over twenty years. 
  • It is certainly not that AJ Balucoffis a Mormon.  Mormons and Evangelical Christians exchange places as the religion with the most adherents in Idaho. Together they are almost half the population.
  • It is not that AJ Balucoff is a businessman.  He estimates his net worth as over $40 million.  In general, Idahoans admire successful businessmen.
  • Maybe AJ Balucoff is a stranger because he moved to Idaho from California.  Immigrants into Idaho have not always been welcome.  After the Civil War there was an Idaho range war between local Republican cattlemen and newcomer Democratic sheepherders.
  • AJ Balucoff is not really a stranger to Idaho.  He is married to a member of the Skaags family — see below.


Idaho has its appeal.  That’s why it is a fast growing state.  People are moving there.  Its basic demographics remain the same — overwhelmingly Christian and overwhelmingly white (though in the past forty years the percentage of non-white residents  increased from miniscule to about 10%).  The core of its economy has moved from agriculture (potatoes) to technology (which provided most of the revenue in the state).  A large, forested state, it has a lot of outdoors for people who see themselves as outdoorsmen. 

Less appealing about Idaho is its poverty. It is a low wage state, with one of the largest percentage of people earning the minimum wage.  Its median income is 40th in the country; the lowest of any non-Southern, non-border state.  A change in the minimum wage would be transforming.  A change in its government would be transforming

AJ Balukoff  was a Bernie delegate at the 2016 Democratic convention. He was the Democratic candidate for Governor in 2014, but lost by 15 points. 

AJ Balucoff grew up in San Diego.  His dad was a navy vet and may have been a high school graduate.  When AJ left for Brigham Young University, he was the first in his family to go to college. He was something of a success as a CPA, working for the Los Angeles office of Arthur Anderson — then one of the big five accounting firms. 

His second marriage was transformative.  AJ Balucoff married Susie Skaags, daughter of the principal inheritor of the Skaags fortune.   The fortune began with a cash and carry store in American Falls, Idaho and eventually became the American Stores Brand.  The family business included familiar names such as Safeway Markets and Osco Drugs.  In 1982, AJ and Susie Balukoff moved themselves  and their eight children (five of whom were from AJ’s 11 year first marriage) to Boise.

AJ Balucoff became a Boise businessman.  He started an accounting firm and sold it.  He bought and sold a chain of athletic clubs and bought a hotel.  He owned the Boise athletic arena and its minor league hockey team.  He became a fixture in the community and a member of nearly every important community organization.  His major community project was the Boise School Board of which he was a member for about two decades. 

AJ Balucoff is entering the 2018 gubernatorial campaign with state-wide name recognition.  He is 71 and has no other ambitions.  In addition to his money, his wife is worth $20 million.  Notwithstanding his support for Bernie Sanders, it would be a stretch to describe him as radical or a socialist. 

Balukoff’s main interest is quality public education.  He had decried reductions in state aid to education.  He opposed referendums in favor of the Republican Governor’s radical conservative proposals for education governance.  The referendums failed. 

He does have other issues.  AJ Balucoff favors a higher minimum wage,  Medicaid expansion under the ACA, describes himself as pro-life, ducked on gay marriage insisting that it was a matter for the courts, and, is generally described as a moderate Democrat (except by Republican opponents). 

Can AJ Balukoff ride a national Democratic wave to the governor’s office in Idaho?  This is an open seat now.  He appears to be planning to self-fund again (He donated about $3million to himself in 2014).  Still, a small monthly donation would help.  It would be a sign that the Democratic wave is still there.  There are those who think it is flagging.  Donate to him via Act Blue https://secure.actblue.com/donate/aj-balukoff-for-governor-1