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Candidates For Idaho Governor Square Off In Coeur d'Alene

Jessica Robinson
Northwest News Network

Idaho Governor Butch Otter defended his record on schools, healthcare and the economy at a debate in Coeur d'Alene Friday.

The Republican governor faced off for the first time with his Democratic opponent as well as a Libertarian candidate hoping to appeal to disillusioned Republicans.

Libertarian candidate John Bujak kicked off the debate by thanking the governor for being there.

“Although, I'll have to share with you, I don't know that there's anything the governor could say today to explain away the way he's betrayed the Republican party and the people of the state of Idaho,” Bujak said.

Otter has taken heat from tea party factions for opting to set up a state-run health exchange under the affordable care act – some have called it “Ottercare.”

Governor Otter told the crowd in Coeur d'Alene the other option was letting the federal government run the state's exchange.

“Obamacare, no matter how much I dislike it -- and I'd vote tomorrow to get rid of it -- but if it's the rule of law, you're going to have to deal with that law as best you can,” the governor said.

Meanwhile, Democratic candidate and businessman A.J. Balukoff said Idaho should take advantage of the federal Medicaid expansion to save on the taxpayer cost of the uninsured.

“Getting back some of the federal tax dollars that we spend in just makes perfect sense because it will free up local dollars that we are already paying,” Balukoff said.

A fourth candidate who's change his legal name to Pro-Life also joined the debate.