Yesterday, Paulette Jordan became the first woman to win the primary for Governor in the state of Idaho, and the first Native American in US history. Jordan's victory signals an important shift in rural politics across the country.
From the Nation:
When Paulette Jordan entered the race for governor of Idaho, there were plenty of pundits who tried to write off the Native American legislator from a district that’s much closer to Canada than to Boise.
In an overwhelmingly white, very conservative, very Republican state, she was an indigenous woman running as a progressive Democrat. And her opponent in the primary was a wealthy businessman who had statewide name recognition, having headed the Democratic ticket four years earlier.
But Jordan was undaunted. She had served two terms in the Legislature representing a historically Republican region of Idaho’s northern panhandle—beating a Republican incumbent in the GOP “wave” election of 2014 and retaining her seat in the “Trump wave” election of 2016, which saw a number of the state’s Democratic legislators defeated.
Jordan launched her gubernatorial campaign with a fierce sense of urgency, declaring that “the system is so corrupt that we have to fix it.” She refused to play the games of conventional politics. In a state that has never elected a woman governor, she aligned herself with a progressive woman who was running for lieutenant governor, Kristin Collum, to form the state’s first all-female ticket for a major-party nomination. “We are two progressive women who are very strong-minded,” announced Jordan, who refused to be dismayed when a number of prominent Democrats backed her male opponent in the primary.
“People just aren’t used to thinking that a woman of color, or a woman period, can win,” she told interviewers. “Even people in the Democratic Party, they aren’t used to envisioning a woman at the top. Yet there are Republican women who know we can get there. There are progressive women in our state who know we can get there. Being young and vibrant and fresh, that plays into a new, bold vision and strong leadership.”
There is no question that Jordan faces an uphill race in the fall. But she has a plan for running a truly statewide campaign that goes deep into the rural regions of Idaho. “It’s about connections to the land and people,” says the candidate, who has from the start of this campaign emphasized her rural roots.
Raised in a family of farmers and ranchers, this member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe still resides in Plummer, Idaho, population 1,017. And she speaks about her ranching roots in a language that resonates with rural voters. “It’s more than just the process of ranching and being part of the ag community. It’s what it means to be a rancher or an agriculturalist,” says Jordan. “It’s sustainability. It’s defending your family and your way of life. When I talk about protecting my future generations, that resonates. When I talk about protecting the land, that resonates.”