POCATELLO — Rep. Paulette Jordan says if she wins the 2018 gubernatorial race she would not only be the first woman to serve as Idaho’s governor, but also the first Native American woman to serve as governor of any state.
But for Jordan, a 38-year-old Democrat from Plummer who opted to run for governor rather than seek a third term as a state representative, it’s her leadership abilities, not her race or gender, that separate her from the competition.
“I never just look at myself as being a woman,” Jordan said to a standing-room only crowd at the College Market coffeehouse Tuesday during her campaign stop in Pocatello. “It’s not about man or woman, it’s about leadership.”
Also a member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Jordan introduced herself as a mother of two from a rural Idaho family of farmers and ranchers and as a person who appreciates what people value.
“When it comes down to truly knowing somebody it’s not about their titles, or their education or their background, it’s really about values and how they were brought up,” Jordan said.
A candidacy centered on the values of Idahoans, Jordan said her political outlook comes from an indigenous history that is underserved in government, but also one that appreciates a persons’ values more than a political party association.
“I have relatives who voted Republican and Democrat and in the end said, ‘it’s not about one party or the other, it’s about the people,’” Jordan said. “It’s simply about human society being good to one another.”
Jordan fielded questions from the audience in an open town hall meeting style with no microphone in a crowded coffeehouse of several dozen. On the issues, Jordan said her top priority is education, specifically in the pre-K and developmental stages. In addition to finding more dollars to dedicate to the state’s education budget, Jordan said educators across the state need competitive salaries to remain in Idaho.
In terms of health care, Jordan said she understands the complexities and continued problems of affordability and access. She said she would expand Medicaid coverage in Idaho to close the gap and would work to increase Veterans Assistance benefits and accessibility. A proponent of medicinal marijuana, Jordan said she worked on a bill in the Legislature last year to decriminalize marijuana across the state.
“I realize it’s baby steps in this state,” Jordan said. “But the fact of the matter remains that 70 percent of our borders are surrounded by states that have legalized marijuana.”
Further, Jordan said she is involved in a national lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies involved in the production of opioid medications that has fueled a nationwide drug epidemic.
“They are shooting thousands of pills, millions of pills into our areas and we have to fight back,” Jordan said.
Jordan answered questions about the state’s economy, speaking about the Idaho tax code and her goal of overhaul and reform. She also spoke about the need to create corporate collaboration with the state’s three research institutions and other colleges to develop a pipeline of educated talent that can find high-paying jobs in Idaho.
An issue she feels should be at the top of the list, Jordan said protecting the environment while ensuring businesses can operate efficiently is of high priority.
“My grandfather told me to never forget no matter where you go in life you’re in contract with Mother Earth,” Jordan said. “That stuck to my heart…but I feel that in my DNA my ultimate responsibility is to ensure there is a brighter, better environment that future-born children should inherit.”
If elected, Jordan would become the first Democratic governor since 1990, when former Gov. Cecil Andrus won his fourth nonconsecutive term. Moreover, her candidacy comes during a time when Republicans own the majority of the Legislature and every statewide and federal elected seat.
In the May primary, Jordan faces Democratic challenger and Boise businessman A.J. Balukoff, who kicked off his gubernatorial campaign in Pocatello earlier this month.
For Republicans, leading gubernatorial candidates include U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, Lt. Gov. Brad Little and Boise businessman politicalnewcomer candidate Tommy Ahlquist.
“My candidacy is about trying to bring the kindness and the caring for one another back into what is now the state of Idaho,” Jordan said. “(Idaho) needs to work for us and it needs to work better.”