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Politics & Government

Candidate Conversations 2018: A.J. Balukoff

Matt Guilhem
Boise State Public Radio

Longtime education advocate and Boise businessman A.J. Balukoff is running for Idaho governor as a Democrat. Balukoff is a co-owner of downtown Boise’s Grove Hotel and CenturyLink Arena. He’s been on the Boise School Board for decades and previously ran for governor in 2014.

Balukoff says he actively participated in the effort to get Medicaid expansion on the November ballot as a signature gatherer.

“The vast majority of Idahoans would like to see us expand the definition of Medicaid to cover the people in the gap,” Balukoff says. He’s confident the voter initiative will make it on the ballot, but should it not he says he’ll work with the legislature to expand the program.

On the subject of education, Balukoff concedes the state ranks poorly nationally and that it’s a topic that needs to be worked on. Balukoff says part of the issue is teachers. While urban areas like Twin Falls and Boise have good teachers, he says getting qualified educators to rural schools is hard.

He says he’s talked to a number of superintendents in rural areas that have told him many of their teachers are uncertified and working toward the credentials. Balukoff says that can be fixed by paying a competitive salary.

The businessman credits Idaho’s natural beauty and access to outdoor activities as factors behind its recent rank as the nation’s fastest-growing state. He says protecting access to the state’s outdoor treasures is key in balancing Idaho’s rural heritage and growing future.

Balukoff is one of three Democrats running for his party's nomination for governor.

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