AP News

Otter taps industry lobbyist as 2014 campaign head

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has reached into the top ranks of the state's leading big business and industry lobbying group for the person he wants to run his bid for a third term as Idaho's chief executive.

The Republican announced Tuesday that he's named veteran political organizer Jayson Ronk as his 2014 campaign manager.

While Otter has yet to formally announce his campaign plans, he's been raising money and telling supporters he intends to seek a third term. Naming Ronk, a former executive director of the Idaho Republican Party and currently the vice president of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, adds more clarity to Otter's political ambitions.

"Jayson is well-known and highly respected for his many years of work both behind the scenes and on the front lines of some of the most important issues and debates we've faced in Idaho," Otter said in a statement. "His energy, experience, intelligence, leadership and professionalism will be keys to victory in 2014."

So far, Otter lacks a challenger from within his own party heading into May's GOP primary and the Democrats have yet to field a candidate for the general election next fall.

Ronk takes over for Debbie Field, who ran Otter's campaigns in 2006 and 2010. Field remains a trusted adviser, Otter said.

Appointing Ronk also cements Otter's footing with the established, pro-industry and deep-pocketed wing of Idaho's Republican Party. IACI is the state's leading pro-business and industry group, whose members include Idaho Power Co. and the J.R. Simplot Corp. and Micron Technology Inc., and its political arm paid for robocalls and campaign ads critical of Otter's 2010 Democratic challenger, Keith Allred.

Earlier this year, IACI and Ronk got behind two of Otter's biggest priorities — repeal of the business personal property tax and creating a state-based health insurance exchange as part of the Affordable Care Act.

Ronk's wife, Megan, is also involved in state government. She serves as communications director for the Idaho Department of Commerce. He begins his new role with the Otter campaign Oct. 1.

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