John Foster 

"More Democrats became independent and more independents became Republicans."

Journalism to politics to public policy. John Foster thinks that it's a natural progression. A Boise native, Foster returned to Idaho from New Mexico to serve as managing editor of the Idaho Business Review. Then he became the executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party. And now, after suffering the slings and arrows of a losing effort to re-elect Rep. Walt Minnick, Foster is making another change. Most people know him as an active political figurehead, but first, he's a husband to wife Andrea and father of three to 7-year-old Jack, 4-year-old Naomi and 1-year old Josephine.

Is Rep. Minnick clearing his schedule?

Losing pretty much takes care of that. It clears itself. Politics is a harsh business, especially after an election.

Is there regular communication with Representative-elect Raul Labrador?

I know that the two have talked a few times since the election, and it's been very cordial. But it's not like we're transitioning any part of our operation over to his. Congressional offices are not similar to executive offices where you'll see more formal transition. To the extent that there's work to be done, we're trying to do it in the least impactful way.

How can you best characterize your professional relationship with the congressman?

We're very different personalities, which is one reason why our professional relationship was productive. I wasn't always an easy person for him to have around, but he kept me around and sought my counsel because we were different. He recognized that.

It's difficult for a lot of outsiders to relate to.

A lot of the post-election punditry and second-guessing might have had me screaming years ago, but I'm a little older and wiser now. I recognize that most of the people opining about what happened are doing it because they weren't in the middle of it and never will be. So they're inconsequential as a result.

Did you give credence to some of the early polling that showed Rep. Minnick with a measurable lead?

We were ahead in all of our internal polling all the way up to the final days. Every single undecided voter broke against Walt. I'll make one comment about some of the post-election analysis: There seems to be an assumption that Democrats stayed home. The reality is that there are a lot fewer of them. The state has become a lot more red. More Democrats became independent and more independents became Republicans.

What's the state of the Democratic Party in Idaho?

I say this as a former executive director of the state Democratic Party. There is no Democratic Party in Idaho. A party is infrastructure. A party is operation and fundraising. There is simply no party.

But you're a Democrat and your counsel is solicited.

No, it's not. Maybe by a very small group of people.

But if you did have a few minutes with some people who could rebuild the party, where would you start?

By not worrying about rebuilding the Democratic Party. The state is ruby-red Republican, and likely always will be. Any advice I would have to give would be to accept that reality and move on. Do not assume that you're going to get the state to change. It's Republican. It's conservative. Your strategy needs to be built around that reality.

Do you think Keith Allred has another race in him?

I'd prefer not to comment on other candidates.

Do you think Dave Bieter has a political future outside of Boise City Hall?


Have you accepted a new job?

I will be the vice president in charge of Idaho operations for Strategies 360.

Who are they?

They're a public affairs firm based in Seattle. They have offices in Washington State, Oregon, Montana and Alaska. We agreed that Idaho had some unique challenges and opportunities in the business and non-profit sectors.

Are you happy with your change?

This is exactly what I wanted to do. I was planning to leave whether Walt won or lost. Not because of any particular falling out, but as campaign manager, it was 100-hour weeks. My family deserved for me to step back and assess whatever credibility I had built up and cash in my chips, as it were, and see what these last several years of work were worth.


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