Paulette Jordan won a convincing primary victory in her bid to be the next governor of Idaho. She convinced more than 60 percent of Democratic voters that her progressive message would work in November.
“I am so moved by the strength and determination of our Idaho voters today. Their voices were heard loud and clear — our vision for a more prosperous future lies with the progressive values embodied by this campaign,” Jordan said in a telephone call to Indian Country Today. “Our communities have spoken., and now we must unite as never before to move onward together.”
Jordan said she is “honored by the widespread support received from my relatives throughout Indian Country.”
“This is a huge step for us and I’m excited to be on this journey with all of you. This is a great indicator of where we as indigenous progressive leaders in rural states can help lead our communities,” Jordan said.
Already some dismiss Jordan’s chances going forward. The New York Times described the race this way: “In a state that Donald J. Trump won by more than 30 percentage points and has not elected a Democratic governor since 1990, the Republican primary on Tuesday is almost certainly where Mr. Otter’s successor will be chosen.”
When asked how she will convince voters in a state that is overwhelmingly Republican, Jordan laughed, and said, “we’re about to find out.”
Then again Idaho is a state that did once elect Democrats. Former Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus won the governor’s office four times, the last time in 1990.
The formula? “Connectivity,” Jordan said. “It’s about connections to the land and people.”
Jordan also is already bringing new voters into the process, young people. A tweet Tuesday before the vote captured that very idea. “Today I became a #firsttimevoterand my first vote ever went to the one and only @PauletteEJordan,” wrote Taylor Munson.
The turnout in the Democratic Primary was remarkably high. The Idaho Statesman reported in the state’s largest county, Ada, officials scrambled to supply enough ballots. “I am super curious to see what actual turnout was for the Democratic Party, because we were certainly overwhelmed by it today,” Ada Chief Deputy Clerk Phil McGrane told The Statesman.
In addition to Jordan’s messages about her rural values, her outreach to younger voters could also be the key to reversing the Republican hold on Idaho.
Jordan defeated a well-funded candidate, A.J. Balukoff, who used his own personal wealth to fund his campaign. She also defeated the Democrats establishment, most of the elected party officials endorsed Balukoff (who had been the party’s nominee four years ago). Balukoff was gracious in his defeat. He said he would work hard to elect Democrats.
So that’s another first. Jordan easily erased a substantial gap in campaign funding.
This is history. Jordan is the first woman to ever win a party’s gubernatorial nomination in Idaho.
She also made history because Kristen Collum is her running mate. It’s the first time two women have run together to lead Idaho.
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Then this is going to be an election of firsts and making history. Jordan, a member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, is now the first Native American woman to ever be a major party’s nominee for governor. Get used the phrase “first ever” is going to pop up a lot between now and November.
On Facebook, Seahdom Edmo posted: “I am watching this with my daughter. I said, ‘look she is a Native woman running for Governor, do you want to be Governor?’ She said, ‘no, I want to be President.’ Paulette, you are inspiring all of us!”
Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter Follow @TrahantReports. This column is cross posted on Trahant Reports and Indian Country Today.