Butch Otter

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Butch Otter
Butch and Lori Otter cropped.jpg
32nd Governor of Idaho
Assumed office
January 1, 2007
Lieutenant Jim Risch
Brad Little
Preceded by Jim Risch
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Idaho's 1st district
In office
January 3, 2001 – January 1, 2007
Preceded by Helen Chenoweth-Hage
Succeeded by Bill Sali
37th Lieutenant Governor of Idaho
In office
January 5, 1987 – January 3, 2001
Governor Cecil Andrus
Phil Batt
Dirk Kempthorne
Preceded by David Leroy
Succeeded by Jack Riggs
Personal details
Born Clement Leroy Otter
(1942-05-03) May 3, 1942 (age 75)
Caldwell, Idaho, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Gay Simplot (1964–1992)
Lori Easley (2006–present)
Children 4
Residence Governor's Mansion
Education Saint Martin's University
Boise State University
College of Idaho (BA)
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1968–1973
Unit Idaho Army National Guard

Clement Leroy "Butch" Otter (born May 3, 1942) is an American businessman and politician who has served as the 32nd Governor of Idaho since January 2007. He is a member of the Republican Party. Having served for 10 years, 171 days, Otter is currently the longest-serving incumbent Governor in the United States whose time in office has run consecutively. Prior to the Governorship, Otter served as Lieutenant Governor of Idaho from 1987 to 2001 and as the United States Representative for Idaho's 1st congressional district from 2001 to 2007, when he resigned his congressional seat to assume the Idaho Governorship.

Otter is the third Catholic to serve as Governor of Idaho and the first to win election since James H. Hawley in 1910.

Early life, education, and business career (1942–1972)[edit]

Butch Otter was born on May 3, 1942 in Caldwell, Idaho, into a small family of limited means. He is the son of Regina Mary (Buser) and Joseph Bernard Otter.[1][2] His father was a journeyman, electrician, and the family lived in many rural locations in the Midwest and Western United States during his youth, attending 15 different schools. His nickname "Butch" was the result of a few schoolyard fights which resulted in minor bruises; Catholic Nuns had initially nicknamed him "Clem" after a character in the Red Skelton Show.[1] He graduated from St. Teresa's Academy (now Bishop Kelly High School) in Boise in 1962.

Otter was 20 when he graduated from high school– a childhood accident involving gasoline severely burned his younger brother and forced Otter to take a year off. Otter worked throughout high school as a janitor, theater usher, and lawn boy. Otter briefly attended St. Martin's University in Lacey, Washington. Otter returned to Idaho and attended Boise Junior College, then earned his B.A. in political science from the College of Idaho in 1967. He was the only member of his family to graduate from college, and made the dean's list in his last term. He served in the Idaho Army National Guard's 116th Armored Cavalry from 1968–73. His business experience includes 30 years with Simplot International, an agribusiness corporation which was founded by Otter's then father-in-law, J.R. Simplot. He started at a low-level position and eventually rose to the company's presidency.[3]

Early political career (1972–1986)[edit]

Idaho legislature[edit]

His first bid for elective office was in 1972 when he was elected a member of the Idaho State House of Representatives from Canyon County. He was re-elected in 1974 and 1976.[4]

1978 gubernatorial election[edit]

In January 1977, incumbent Democratic Governor Cecil Andrus was appointed U.S. Secretary of Interior under President Jimmy Carter. Lieutenant governor John Evans, a Democrat, succeeded Andrus and Otter announced in June his intention to run for Governor of Idaho in 1978.[5] In the six-man Republican primary in August, Otter ranked a close third with 26.0% of the vote. Allan Larsen, the House Speaker from Blackfoot, won the nomination with 28.7% of the vote, followed by Vern Ravenscroft of Tuttle, with 27.6%.[6][7][8] The nominees of both parties were Mormon, marking the first time in state history one would be elected governor.[8] Incumbent Evans was unopposed in the Democratic primary and won the general election in November, the third of six consecutive victories by Democrats.

State politics[edit]

After losing the gubernatorial primary, he was on the Idaho Republican Party Central Committee and was Chairman of the Canyon County Republican Party.[9]

Reagan administration[edit]

After Republican Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, he appointed Otter to the administration's Task Force on International Private Enterprise, the World Bank's Agricultural Advisory Committee, and the Center for International Private Enterprise.

Lieutenant Governor of Idaho (1987–2001)[edit]

In 1986, Otter returned to politics and was elected Lieutenant Governor of Idaho. He was reelected in 1990, 1994, and 1998. He served under three different governors, Democrat Cecil Andrus, and Republicans Phil Batt and Dirk Kempthorne. In 1991, when the Idaho Senate was evenly divided between 21 Republicans and 21 Democrats, Otter's tie-breaking votes kept the body under GOP control. Otter left the post midway through his fourth term in 2001 to take his Congressional seat. He is the longest-serving lieutenant governor in Idaho history.

U.S. House of Representatives (2001–2007)[edit]

C.L. "Butch" Otter's Official Congressional Portrait


U.S. Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth-Hage of Idaho's First Congressional District had promised to serve only three terms in the House when first elected in the Republican wave of 1994, and kept that pledge in 2000 even after calling term limits bad policy. Otter entered the Republican primary, and immediately became the favorite due to his name recognition as lieutenant governor. He won handily, and breezed to victory in November. He was re-elected in 2002 and 2004 with no substantive opposition.


In Congress, Otter was largely conservative with a slight libertarian streak, as reflected in his opposition to the Patriot Act. He was one of three Republicans (along with Bob Ney of Ohio and Ron Paul of Texas) to vote against the act in 2001. He has since stated that "much of the USA PATRIOT Act is needed to help protect us in a dangerous age of stateless zealots and mindless violence". Otter was also very critical of the Bush Administration's terrorist surveillance program concerning communications from within the United States to those outside the United States. He served as a deputy majority whip for most of his time in Congress.

Otter has voted against allowing electronic surveillance without a warrant. He has supported military recruitment efforts on college campuses and has voted for adopting the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. He opposes a time table for withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan.

He has voted for establishing a nationwide AMBER alert system for missing children.


Otter is pro-life and has voted to ban federal funding of abortions and opposes partial-birth abortions. He also supports parental consent laws for minors who seek an abortion.

LGBT rights[edit]

He supports a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between "one man and one woman."[10]

Gun laws[edit]

He has been a strong advocate for second amendment rights and opposes federal restrictions on gun sales.[11]


On economic issues, he has voted for a 2001 bankruptcy overhaul requiring partial debt repayment. He supports a balanced budget amendment to the US constitution and supports broad based tax cuts including eliminating the estate and marriage tax. He has voted to reduce the marriage tax by $399B over 10 years. He has supported expanding free trade agreements with nations such as Singapore and Chile. Otter has voted to end offshore tax havens and promote tax credits for small businesses. He has voted to raise 401(k) limits & making pension plans more portable.

Health care[edit]

He has voted for medical malpractice and tort reform. He has voted to allow importation of prescription drugs and has supported small business associations to reduce health insurance costs via collaborative efforts.

Immigration laws[edit]

He has voted to build a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border and has opposed granting amnesty to illegal immigrants.

Committee assignments[edit]

Leadership in International Trade[edit]

Otter published an article in The Ripon Forum magazine. In the article, Otter discussed that he had led many trade missions to Asia-Pacific countries, fostering relationships with companies in Seoul, Taipei, Taiwan and Ho Chi Minh City. Otter brought a delegation to Taiwan that resulted in Idaho’s Micron Technology becoming Taiwan’s largest direct U.S. investor.[13]

Governor of Idaho (2007–present)[edit]

2006 election[edit]

On December 15 Otter announced his candidacy for the gubernatorial seat in 2006. Otter won the May Republican primary with 70% of the vote, defeating three opponents [14]

In the general election, he faced Democrat Jerry Brady in the November 7 general election. Brady, the former publisher of The Post Register in Idaho Falls, had run for governor in 2002, losing to incumbent Republican Governor Dirk Kempthorne. Otter was initially considered an overwhelming favorite, given his popularity and Idaho's strong Republican lean. However, the race was far closer than expected in the last weeks of the campaign. A poll conducted for the Idaho Statesman and Boise ABC affiliate KIVI showed Otter ahead of Brady by only a single point– a statistical dead heat. According to the Statesman, it was the first time in over a decade that the governor's race has not already been decided 10 days prior to the election. State Republican Party chairman Kirk Sullivan told the paper that the race appeared to be closer than normal because of a strong national trend against the Republicans. Otter pulled away in the final week, and won the election 53%–44%, the closest gubernatorial race since 1994.[15]

First term[edit]

Otter has recommended an increase in Idaho state educational funding by $1.36 billion as well as expanding needs-based scholarships for college-bound students. Otter supports expanding offshore oil drilling and supports tax incentives for development of alternative fuels. He has stated that the US should set a goal of 25% renewable energy by 2025.

On January 11, 2007, Otter announced his support for a "gray wolf kill," in which all but 100 of Idaho's recently recovered population would be eradicated, pending the forthcoming U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removal of the wolves' federal protections under the Endangered Species Act. Otter even remarked that he would be first in line to purchase a tag to kill one of the animals.[16] This position drew criticism from many Western environmental and animal advocate groups, including Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals who called for a boycott of potatoes from Idaho.[17]

2010 election[edit]

In the Republican primary, he had five opponents file against him. He won re-nomination with just 55% of the vote.[18] In the general election, he defeated Democratic nominee Keith Allred 59%–33%.[19]

Second term[edit]

He was sworn into his second term on January 7, 2011. In the first State of the State in his second term, he proposed the elimination of teacher tenure, becoming one of the most aggressive governors in the country when it comes to education reform. The Stateline explained that the "Idaho plan is perhaps the most far-reaching effort to use teachers’ rights and performance as part of a bid to revamp a state’s entire educational process." Critics say that roughly 770 teaching positions would be eliminated and teacher contracts would have to be renegotiated every year, in which bargaining would cover only pay and benefits.[20] In March 2011, Otter signed two bills into law, one limits the ability of teachers to collectively bargain and eliminates tenure for new teachers. The other allows school districts to pay teachers based on their performance.[21] The "Luna laws" (named after the state's superintendent of education) were later overturned in three state referendums in 2012.

In April 2011, Otter issued an executive order prohibiting Idaho state agencies from implementing the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.[22]

In March 2014 Otter established the "Wolf Control Fund and State Board" which continues his policy of exterminating wolves in Idaho.

2014 election[edit]

In November 2014, Otter was elected to a third consecutive term as governor.[23]


Senate Bill 1146a, which would have legalized CBD oil for persons with severe epilepsy, passed the Idaho Legislature following "lengthy and emotional" hearings, but was vetoed by Otter in April 2015.[24]

In his veto, Otter stated:

It ignores ongoing scientific testing on alternative treatments... It asks us to trust but not to verify. It asks us to legalize the limited use of cannabidiol oil, contrary to federal law. And it asks us to look past the potential for misuse and abuse with criminal intent.[25]

For the United States presidential election in 2016 Otter endorsed fellow Republican John Kasich.[26]

Donald Trump administration[edit]

Otter was named as a possible nominee for United States Secretary of Agriculture in the Donald Trump administration.[27] He was ultimately not selected, and the position went to former Governor of Georgia, Sonny Perdue.[28]

Personal life[edit]

Butch and Lori Otter opening the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games

In 1964, Otter married Gay Simplot (b. 1945), the sister of Scott Simplot and only daughter of J. R. Simplot. After 28 years of marriage, the couple amicably divorced in 1992. The marriage was later annulled by the Catholic Church.[29] In 2006, Otter married his longtime girlfriend Lori Easley (b. 1967), a former Miss Idaho USA,[30] in Meridian on August 18.[31][32]

Drunk driving arrest[edit]

In August 1992, Otter was pulled over on Interstate 84 near Meridian for suspicion of driving under the influence. He said the arresting officer observed him swerving as he was reaching for his cowboy hat, which had been blown off by the wind in his open car. Otter offered several explanations for failing the field sobriety test including: his stocking feet were stung by weeds and gravel, he had run eight miles (13 km) and his knee hurt, he was hungry, and that he had soaked his chewing tobacco in Jack Daniel's. A jury convicted Otter in March 1993, and he was sentenced to 72 hours of community service and 16 hours at an alcohol treatment program, fined $700, and had his license revoked.[33][34] He publicly admitted the incident could end his political career;[34] it likely forced him to abandon an anticipated run for governor in 1994 and instead seek re-election for lieutenant governor.

Electoral history[edit]

Idaho Lieutenant Governor: Results 1986–1998
Year Democratic Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
1986 Marjorie Ruth Moon Butch Otter
1990 (unopposed) Butch Otter (inc.) 246,132 100%
1994 John Peavey 191,625 47.4% Butch Otter (inc.) 213,009 52.6%
1998 Sue Reents 133,688 35.6% Butch Otter (inc.) 225,704 60.2% Alan Stroud American Heritage 15,769 4.2%
Idaho Lieutenant Governor Republican primary election, 1990
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Butch Otter (inc.) 73,292 69.6%
Republican (first name not given) Forrey 31,963 30.4%
Idaho Lieutenant Governor Republican primary election, 1994
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Butch Otter (inc.) 46,805 39.7%
Republican Dean Sorenson 38,963 33.1%
Republican Dean Haagenson 32,037 27.2%
Idaho's 1st congressional district: Results 2000–2004
Year Democratic Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
2000 Linda Pall 84,080 31.4% Butch Otter 173,743 64.8% Ronald G. Wittig Libertarian 6,093 2.3% Kevin P. Hambsch Reform 4,200 1.6%
2002 Betty Richardson 80,269 38.9% Butch Otter (inc.) 120,743 58.6% Steve Gothard Libertarian 5,129 2.5%
2004 Naomi Preston 90,927 30.5% Butch Otter (inc.) 207,662 69.5%
Idaho's 1st Congressional district Republican primary election, 2000
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Butch Otter 41,516 47.6%
Republican Dennis Mansfield 23,559 27.0%
Republican Ron McMurray 14,434 16.6%
Republican Craig Benjamin 2,966 3.4%
Republican "Big Jim" Pratt 1,281 1.5%
Republican Gene Summa 1,240 1.4%
Republican David Shepherd 1,181 1.4%
Republican Harley Brown 983 1.1%
Idaho's 1st Congressional district Republican primary election, 2004
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Butch Otter (inc.) 48,986 78.5%
Republican Jim Pratt 13,433 21.5%
Idaho Governor: Results 2006–2014
Year Democratic Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
2006 Jerry Brady 198,845 44.1% Butch Otter 237,437 52.7% Marvin Richardson Constitution 7,309 1.6% Steve Gothard Libertarian 7,241 1.6%
2010 Keith G. Allred 169,556 32.9% Butch Otter (inc.) 267,483 59.1% Jana Kemp Independent 26,655 5.9% Ted Dunlap Libertarian 5,867 1.3%
2014 A.J. Balukoff 148,680 38.55% Butch Otter (inc.) 235,405 53.52% John Bujak Libertarian 17,884 4.07% Jill Humble Independent 8,801 2%
Idaho Gubernatorial Republican primary election, 2006
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Butch Otter 96,045 70.0%
Republican Dan Adamson 29,093 21.2%
Republican Jack Alan Johnson 7,652 5.6%
Republican Walt Bayes 4,385 3.2%
Idaho Gubernatorial Republican primary election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Butch Otter (inc.) 89,117 54.6%
Republican Rex Rammell 42,436 26.0%
Republican Sharon Margaret Ullman 13,749 8.4%
Republican Ron "Pete" Peterson 8,402 5.2%
Republican Walt Bayes 4,825 3.0%
Republican Tamara Wells 4,544 2.8%
Republican Fred Nichols (write-in) 38 0.0%
Idaho Gubernatorial Republican primary election, 2014
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Butch Otter (inc.) 79,779 51.4%
Republican Russell Fulcher 67,694 43.6%
Republican Harley Brown 5,084 3.3%
Republican Walt Bayes 2,753 1.8%


  1. ^ a b "Butch Otter Rides Again". Reason.com. October 13, 2006. Retrieved February 24, 2016. 
  2. ^ "Who's who in the West: A Biographical Dictionary of Noteworthy Men and Women ...". Books.google.com. June 6, 2008. 
  3. ^ Rothstein, Betsy (April 6, 2005). "From 'Mr. Tight Jeans' to gubernatorial hopeful". Retrieved September 12, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Idaho Governor". 
  5. ^ "Simplot executive seeks GOP nod for Idaho post". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. Associated Press. June 3, 1977. p. 15. 
  6. ^ "ID Governor - R Primary Race - Aug 08, 1978". Our Campaigns. Retrieved February 24, 2016. 
  7. ^ "Idaho GOP governor vote close". The Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. Associated Press. August 9, 1978. p. 1. 
  8. ^ a b "Larsen upsets Ravenscroft in GOP". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. Associated Press. August 9, 1978. p. 1A. 
  9. ^ "Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter - The State of Idaho". Gov.idaho.gov. Retrieved February 24, 2016. 
  10. ^ Idaho, State of. "Press Release". gov.idaho.gov. Retrieved 2017-05-07. 
  11. ^ "Butch Otter on the Issues". Issues2000.org. Retrieved August 29, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Candidate - C.L. "Butch" Otter". Our Campaigns. Retrieved February 24, 2016. 
  13. ^ Otter, Butch (Summer 2013). "The Importance of Pacific Trade to My State". Ripon Forum. Archived from the original on October 22, 2013. Retrieved October 21, 2013. 
  14. ^ "ID Governor - R Primary Race - May 23, 2006". Our Campaigns. Retrieved February 24, 2016. 
  15. ^ "ID Governor Race - Nov 07, 2006". Our Campaigns. Retrieved February 24, 2016. 
  16. ^ "Idahoans weigh in on ending wolf protections". MSNBC. Retrieved August 29, 2010. 
  17. ^ "Wolves Or Taters?". ESPN. August 28, 2009. Retrieved February 24, 2016. 
  18. ^ "ID Governor - R Primary Race - May 25, 2010". Our Campaigns. Retrieved February 24, 2016. 
  19. ^ "ID Governor Race - Nov 02, 2010". Our Campaigns. Retrieved February 24, 2016. 
  20. ^ "Idaho's Tom Luna offers sweeping school overhaul plan". February 25, 2011. Retrieved January 25, 2012. 
  21. ^ Daniel C. Vock (March 18, 2011). "Idaho governor signs anti-tenure teacher law". Retrieved January 25, 2012. 
  22. ^ "Idaho governor blocks federal health care reform law". CNN. April 21, 2011. 
  23. ^ "Nov 04, 2014 General Election Results". Idaho Secretary of State. Archived from the original on December 1, 2014. Retrieved December 8, 2014. 
  24. ^ "Boise, Meridian, Nampa, Caldwell news by Idaho Statesman". Idaho Statesman. April 16, 2015. Retrieved August 25, 2015. 
  25. ^ Russell, Betsy Z. (April 16, 2015). "Otter vetoes bill to allow CBD oil to be used to treat sick Idaho kids". The Spokesman-Review. Spokesman. Retrieved August 25, 2015. 
  26. ^ "Idaho Gov. Otter endorses John Kasich for president". KBOI. 
  27. ^ JASON HUFFMAN (December 15, 2016), Idaho governor considered for agriculture secretary, his staff says, Politico 
  28. ^ http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/donald-trump-taps-georgia-gov-sonny-perdue-secretary-agriculture-n708651
  29. ^ Boone, Rebecca. Wedding draws near for Otter, Easley August 3, 2006. Web. Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  30. ^ Miller, John (October 28, 2006). "Beauty queen, civil rights marcher could be first lady". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Idaho-Washington. Associated Press. p. 7A. 
  31. ^ Boone, Rebecca (August 19, 2006). "Otter and Easley exchange vows". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Idaho-Washington. Associated Press. p. 5A. 
  32. ^ http://www.nbcnews6.com/index.cfm?page=nbcheadlines.cfm&ID=35942. Retrieved October 25, 2006.  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  33. ^ "A second chance for Lieutenant Governor". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Idaho-Washington. March 11, 1993. p. 10A. 
  34. ^ a b Kenyon, Quane (April 20, 1993). "Butch Otter fined, loses license". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. Associated Press. p. B3. 

External links[edit]

U.S. Representative 2001–2007
Political offices
Preceded by
David Leroy
Lieutenant Governor of Idaho
Succeeded by
Jack Riggs
Preceded by
Jim Risch
Governor of Idaho
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Helen Chenoweth-Hage
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Idaho's 1st congressional district

Succeeded by
Bill Sali
Party political offices
Preceded by
Dirk Kempthorne
Republican nominee for Governor of Idaho
2006, 2010, 2014
Most recent
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Mike Pence
as Vice President
Order of Precedence of the United States
Within Idaho
Succeeded by
Mayor of city
in which event is held
Succeeded by
Otherwise Paul Ryan
as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Jay Inslee
as Governor of Washington
Order of Precedence of the United States
Outside Idaho
Succeeded by
Matt Mead
as Governor of Wyoming