A Harvard professor and activist is running for Idaho governor as a Democrat after battling the alcoholic beverage industry in a failed attempt to fund substance abuse treatment through a beer and wine tax hike.
Keith Allred, head of The Common Interest, a government reform group, filed campaign paperwork with the secretary of state's office Thursday morning.
Julie Fanselow, a Democratic Party spokeswoman, said Allred had planned to file later but accelerated the process after word of his campaign appeared on a liberal-leaning Web log.
As director of The Common Interest, Allred annually interviews government leaders and others to identify important issues. The group's 1,000 members then rate the issues before developing positions on what they'd like to see happen in the upcoming Legislative session. Allred said he hopes to take this consensus approach to problem solving and apply it to the role of Idaho chief executive.
"Imagine the possibilities of a governor joining with the hundreds of citizens in each legislative district who had weighed in on a particular measure to pass such legislation," he said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
After founding The Common Interest five years ago, Allred has been a regular presence in the Idaho Capitol, including lobbying on behalf of a 2006 law that expanded a tax exemption for homeowners to reduce their annual payments.
He has also played a watchdog role.
He discovered last year an $11 million error in calculations the Idaho Transportation Department was using to promote a proposed vehicle registration fee increase. Allred's fact check helped lead to the failure of that measure, which he opposed because it shifted costs from heavy trucks to car owners.
Last February, a state House committee rejected an effort by Allred's group to hike the beer and wine tax to fund drug treatment. Allred argued the beer and wine tax were minuscule and hadn't been updated in nearly a half century. The industry put up stiff opposition, saying an increase would hurt small businesses and even barley farmers in a tough economy.
If Allred wins the 2010 Democratic primary in May, he would face the winner of the Republican primary.
GOP candidates include front-runner Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, Ada County Commissioner Sharon Ullman and former elk rancher Rex Rammell. The governor is concentrating on the state budget and boosting the economy, not thinking about next year's election or eventual Democratic opponents, Otter spokeswoman Brenda Maynard Walters said in an e-mail.
Allred grew up in Twin Falls, graduated from Stanford University and the University of California, Los Angeles and spent seven years as a professor at Harvard University, according to a biography on The Common Interest Web site.
He returned to Idaho in 2003. He and his wife, Christine, have three children.
Cecil Andrus, a former four-term Democratic governor, applauded Allred's run, saying Democrats haven't held the post since Andrus left office in 1995.
"Keith is extremely knowledgeable about the issues and he knows Idaho," Andrus said in an e-mail from the state Democratic Party. "Most Idahoans know that a strong two-party system makes for better government and a more balanced approach to solving problems."
Senate Minority Leader Kate Kelly, a Boise Democrat, said Allred's Idaho roots _ he grew up working on his family's cattle ranch _ add credibility to his run.
"He's been here for so long, he will be supremely able to talk to the citizens of Idaho and reflect what they want in a governor," Kelly said.