POCATELLO – Republican state Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Russell Fulcher said while his bid for the state’s highest office is not set in stone, the issue of health care in Idaho lead him to explore that possibility.
Fulcher has served in the Idaho Senate for the past nine years. He represents District 22 in Meridian.
“I do believe that (Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter) is out of touch with residents in Idaho, especially on the issue of health care and other intrusions,” Fulcher said.
This week Fulcher embarked on a three-week long, statewide tour aimed at learning what issues were important to Idaho residents. After meeting with voters in Idaho Falls on Monday morning, he was at Perkin’s Restaurant to learn what voters in the Gate City are most concerned about.
“I think that I’m in touch with issues in my own District, but I need to hear people and understand problems they are facing across the state,” Fulcher said.
Fulcher and his wife, Kara, have been married 26 years, they have three children. Daughter Meghan is touring the state with him. Her official title? “Campaign buddy.”
The implementation of the Affordable Care Act partially shut down the federal government and was a divisive issue in Idaho as well.
“Gov. Otter led the charge to implement Obamacare in Idaho,” Fulcher said. “Now it’s failing and because Idaho invested in it, we’re scrambling to prop it up. It’s bad for the state, and it’s bad for the people in Idaho.”
State Rep. Ken Andrus, a Republican, said the health care issue in Idaho was complicated by the fact that there were 32 freshmen law makers in the state House when the Affordable Care Act was passed into law.
“Those freshmen didn’t know where they stood, and I think they were frightened by the gravity of the vote,” Andrus said. “They were advised by liberals.”
Andrus said he consulted with Fulcher and received his assurance that he would not “drift off track” in the same manner that Otter has.
“I really respect (Fulcher),” Andrus said. “I think of myself as a conservative, and we see eye to eye on a lot of things. He is solid in his beliefs.”
Fulcher was raised on dairy farm in Meridian. He is a fourth-generation native of the Boise bedroom community. He earned a master’s degree in business at Boise State University, and he worked in the technology field, mostly for Micron, for 24 years, and he said 20 of those years were most likely spent on airplanes.
“I traveled to 26 countries and 49 states. The more I was out of the country, the more I appreciated the U.S.” Fulcher said “And the more I was out Idaho, the more I appreciated our state. We have it all here in Idaho.”
The tea party movement fractured the Republican Party and sprouted numerous conservative groups during the past decade — Fulcher said he’s hearing the same thing from most of those Constitutionalist Republicans.
“They tell me that they didn’t leave the Republican Party, the Party left them,” he said.
Bipartisan cooperation starts with respect. As the majority caucus chairman, Fulcher said he’s learned to do that. Identifying and finding common ground on key issues is a good starting point, he said.
“You have to listen and communicate on the issues,” Fulcher said. “I feel privileged that my colleagues put me in that leadership role.”
Karen McGee was among about two dozen people who attended the meet and greet Monday.
McGee, former president of the State Board of Education and the current vice chairwoman for the Bannock County Republicans, said she was familiar with Fulcher’s record and had worked with him in the Idaho Senate.
“He is a very thoughtful senator. Very succinct and up front,” McGee said. “And he never wavered. He didn’t always agree with me, but it was a pleasure working with him because you always knew where he stood. If you came back a year later, his position was the same.”
Medicaid expansion was among the topics of discussion Monday, and Fulcher said he doesn’t expect the issue to reach the Idaho House until 2015.
“I don’t think it will make it to the House this year, and no one is going to want to discuss it next year. It’s an election year,” he said.
Implementation of Common Core teaching standard was also discussed and Fulcher said the new standard had not yet been addressed in the Legislature. A rule review of the education standard, which beefs up K–12 science, math and language skills was brought before lawmakers for a rule review two years ago, and a vote is expected next session on the program.
Fulcher and Meghan will be in Twin Falls on Tuesday before traveling back to the Boise area, and he said he was surprised to learn that residents in the Eastern and Southeastern Idaho are concerned with what they see as intrusions by both the federal and state governments.
“I expected people would be feeling federal intrusion, but I was surprised to learn that they are equally concerned about intrusion by the state,” Fulcher said.