- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Idaho’s gubernatorial candidates wasted no time throwing jabs at one another during Tuesday’s debate, with all three candidates starting and ending the night slinging attacks at each other’s responses on the state’s economic health, education funding and same-sex marriage.

Republican Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter repeated arguments Tuesday evening that he has often used in prior debates pointing out that his opponents, primarily Democratic nominee and businessman A.J. Balukoff, did not have the experience or the knowledge to take over the office.

“My opponents have lofty goals and have ideas about what they think they can do, but they won’t be able to articulate the specifics,” Otter said.

It was the first televised gubernatorial debate Steve Pankey had participated in since announcing his bid for the office. Libertarian candidate John Bujak, who has typically participated in this election season’s debates, was told by debate host KTVB that he did not meet the event’s requirements.

While all three candidates could agree that Idaho’s education funding needed more money, Otter stood out as the only candidate to argue that Idaho’s fight against allowing same-sex marriage was not over.

“I’m not going to give up. I’m going to defend Idaho’s constitution,” he said.

Earlier that day Otter announced he would not appeal the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to lift the stay banning gay marriage in Idaho starting Wednesday morning.

Otter’s response spurred criticism from Balukoff who said that discrimination is not allowed under the U.S. Constitution. Meanwhile Pankey - who describes himself as a born-again Christian and Idaho’s first openly gay gubernatorial candidate- forcefully said, “Otter, let my people go.”

When talking about education, Balukoff said that Idaho schools have failed under Otter’s past two terms while wages have remained low across the state.

When Otter responded that Idaho’s public schools rank 36 in the nation, Balukoff reminded him that the state ranks last stacked against the 11 western states.

“We’re losing our teachers to states surrounding Idaho,” Balukoff said. “We have the money, there’s money to fund schools. It’s a matter of having the right priorities.”

Constitutional Party candidate Pankey focused mainly on adding more diversity to Idaho’s Land Board.

The remainder of the debate remained tense, but no new arguments came out of the sparks. Otter held fast that raising the state’s minimum wage would be detrimental to small-business owners, while Balukoff quoted anecdotes from the campaign trail of businessmen who supported raising the wage to $10 an hour.

The two disagreed right up until the last minute.

“I have never said that I wanted a statewide property tax,” Balukoff said in response to Otter’s claim that Balukoff changed his website to avoid showing he supported raising taxes. “If you looked at the state’s constitution, Governor, you would see that’s not allowed.

“It also defines marriage as between one man and one woman,” Otter said.

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