BOISE, Idaho — Idaho residents are used to politics that track from conservative to extreme, but a primary debate involving four candidates seeking the Republican nomination for governor was over the top even by Gem State standards.
A pair of fringe contenders stole the show from Gov. Butch Otter and state Sen. Russ Fulcher, using their time to discuss Armageddon, discrimination against motorcycle clubs and problems with political correctness.
The comments from Walt Bayes and Harley Brown during the gubernatorial debate in the 39th most populated state in the nation didn't take long to spread far beyond Idaho borders.
"You might find this offensive, but I hit everybody — Jews, Polish people, Irish, Italians, religious jokes and black jokes," Brown said Wednesday night, responding to a question about bigoted jokes posted to his website. "I don't like political correctness. ... It sucks. It's bondage."
By Thursday, the website Gawker had posted a link with excerpts under the headline "I Can't Stop Watching This Bizarre Idaho Governor's Debate Video." The Washington Post took note in its widely-read political blog, The Fix, likening Bayes and Brown to Jimmy McMillan, who founded the Rent Is Too Damn High Party in New York. The Fox News website weighed in, saying the "eccentric candidates" made for a "strange Idaho gubernatorial debate."
Brown and Bayes, perennial candidates who receive little support, had the opportunity to steal the show thanks to Otter. The governor told Idaho Public Television officials that unless they were allowed to debate, he wouldn't participate either.
Fulcher supporters said the move was a stunt intended to avoid tough questions. He issued a statement Thursday evening saying Idaho residents deserve better and that Otter set the state up for ridicule.
Bayes spent time criticizing the federal government as "a bunch of Eastern idiots" and boasting about killing a wolf that was classified as an endangered species at the time. He also promised to prohibit abortion, saying "if the Supreme Court goes to hell, I'm not following them."
For his part, Brown introduced himself by saying that at the low point of his life he was called by God to be commander in chief, following the statement with "don't think I'm crazy, because I'm not."
Voters will decide on the Idaho primary May 20.