Idaho state Rep. Paulette Jordan feels most at home when she’s traveling into the mountains or a rural community in a “Flyover Zone” in the Gem State. Jordan loves to make the hike to towns that have only a few homes, where she can visit communities of color and low-income regions, and speak with the people she most identifies with.
These rural areas in Jordan’s state are her favorite — and where most candidates won’t visit to campaign, she said.
For Jordan’s campaign to become Idaho’s next governor, there are no special tips or magic tricks that she’s using to get her message out. Her message? Straightforward hard work, with a committed team of people who believe in her vision and progressive platform.
But Jordan’s campaign is far from normal. If elected governor, she would be the first Native American governor in the nation, and the first woman ever elected governor in her state.
The two-term state representative is a member of the Couer D’Alene Tribe, and served on her tribal council from 2009 to 2012. Jordan has since transitioned to not only representing District 5 Seat A in the Idaho House of Representatives, but also serving as a senior executive board representative for the National Indian Gaming Association. In her role as a board representative, Jordan has worked with members of the White House and U.S. Congress and has managed a multibillion dollar association, she said.
“My voice is very different from what [people] see,” Jordan said. “I don’t look at politics as leadership. I look at politics as politicians messing with the system.”
Jordan said she comes from a non-political family and never saw a life in politics. She added that she’s not looking for the power that comes along with being governor, but wants to be part of leadership that’s for the people, made by the people.
“I’ve seen cases in Idaho where people are not being held accountable, both in government and local counties,” Jordan said. “That’s where I feel leadership needs to step up — if you don’t see leadership running the government or being the voice of the people, and basically avoiding the voice of the people.”
As one of only two Democrats from rural districts in Idaho in the state House of Representatives, Jordan happily makes trips four or five hours away into small towns to campaign. She is one of only 11 Democrats out of 70 House members.
Because Republicans hold a supermajority in the state House and Senate, it was hard for Jordan to come to terms with focusing on preventing damage, instead of actively passing legislation for a better democracy.
Last session, Republicans came up with some of the “most amazing legislative work” in terms of discriminatory legislation, Jordan said. This put her and fellow Democrats in the House on the defensive — and they were able to block legislation that attacked LGBTQ rights and communities of color.
Right now, Jordan is pushing a bill with her fellow state Rep. Sally Toone for quality rural education. She also proposed a net neutrality bill to protect Idaho residents’ online freedom.
But to become governor, Jordan maintains that she wants to unite all voices in Idaho.
“I never believed the U.S. Constitution was made to divide people,” she said. “It was made to unite them.”
Jordan’s platform focuses on investing in Idaho’s educational system in rural areas, raising the state’s minimum wage that’s currently the lowest wage in the West, expanding Medicaid, and protecting the environment.
“For folks like myself, I realized there’s more damage being done when there’s a system that isn’t allowing the public to be heard and isn’t listening to the will of the people,” Jordan said. “Especially when they’re suffering from poverty, lack of health care, lack of access to opportunities; especially when we’re hurting their education systems and making everything out of reach.”