Right now, Idaho voters are at the polls. And one candidate running to be that state’s Democratic governor is Paulette Jordan.
Jordan has been massively outspent by businessman A.J. Balukoff. Balukoff has the support of the Democratic establishment, who want to push the “blue dog” model of conservative democrats that’s been seen to be effective in red state special elections. So a question Jordan gets all too frequently is “why bother?”
“I come from a powerful line of women. I’m proud of that heritage and legacy,” Jordan said in response to that question from CNN. “The opportunity for women is now. The President is divisive. Women know we can bring the country together. I’m working to defend my state, my people, even as this President is part of spreading hate and fear.”
Jordan would be the first woman to serve as Idaho’s governor and the first Native American governor (coming from the Couer d’Alene tribe) in the nation. But the odds against her are long. Not only has her opponent in Tuesday’s primary outspent her six-to-one, but Trump carried her state by a wide margin. Idaho is so white and conservative that the Idaho Statesman calls Democratic nominees for governor “sacrificial lambs.”
But that same paper offered Jordan a tepid endorsement.
“[S]he brings an understanding of rural Idaho and rural issues, such as the challenges of operating the tribe’s rural health clinic; the value of Idaho’s tourism industry; and the deep, passionate love that Idahoans have for their public lands.”
Jordan is part of an increasing number of Native Americans seeking elected office. She sees this rising tide as a new kind of engagement with indigenous people’s history of American colonization, domination and marginalization.
At nearly twice Jordan’s age and fitting the mold of Idaho’s past governors (that being white men), Balukoff has said that Democrats in Idaho should stick with him, and consider Jordan “next time.” Jordan fired back.
“He thinks because of his privilege he can buy into privilege. I’ve rolled up my sleeves my entire life to earn my role. For someone to say, ‘Step aside,’ that’s something women have heard before,” she said. “This is our time.”
While Jordan’s a progressive and has taken noteworthy stands on marijuana legalization, to say she’s disconnected with the conservative nature of her state would be unfair. She’s advocated for smaller steps on gun reform and focusing on education and healthcare, for instance.
As for what she’ll do if she loses the primary, she outright rejected that as a premise.
“We’ve already won,” she said. “We’ve inspired and excited our community.”
As of 11:30 PM Eastern, Jordan is in the lead in the Democratic gubernatorial primary with 58 percent of the vote and 5 percent of precincts reporting. Follow the New York Times’ live election results by clicking here.
UPDATED 1:00 AM EDT: Paulette Jordan is projected to win the Idaho Gubernatorial Primary.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.