A couple of weeks ago I was driving across the border into Idaho from Montana. I stopped the car and took a picture of the “Welcome to Idaho” sign. I thought: It would be cool if that sign read, just under the Idaho greeting, “Paulette Jordan, Governor.”
Jordan, a Coeur d’Alene citizen, is running as a Democrat in what is perhaps the reddest, most Republican state in the country. So it’s an impossible task, right?
Let’s do the math. This is Trahant Reports.
Paulette Jordan is one of seven Native American candidates running for statewide office — and one two Native women running to a lead a state (something never been done before). She will be the first of those candidates to face voters — and she will need to win a contested Democratic primary on May 15.
One of the most important reasons for Native American candidates is the aspirational aspect. It’s a way for young people to see a future (one that is far more important than just politics.)
Jordan recently told a group of Native voters on the Shoshone-Bannock Reservation that public policy issues don’t affect just tribes. “Every single issue that tribes push forward are issues that are good for everyone.”
Jordan is running against A.J. Balukoff in a primary election and she has to earn a few thousand votes. That’s plausible, especially in a season where nontraditional candidates are getting a second and third look.
Votes from Idaho’s five reservations could help, too. The numbers are small, but if they are one-sided — say 100, 200, 300 votes to a handful, well, it could give her an edge. Especially in a primary.
Jordan should have an edge with younger Democratic voters and with Hispanics. These two constituent groups that are growing in numbers and importance. Idaho is a young state: There are more people under 18 than any other demographic group. And younger voters — 18 to 25 — are a relatively small cohort. But in the last elections this group increased its turnout rates, so there is a potential upside. Hispanics now account for 12 percent of Idaho’s population and, according to Pew Research, some 80,000 eligible voters (or far more than what would be needed in a primary election.)
So the math is there. It’s possible.
What about Jordan’s message? Is she reaching primary voters? That’s a much tougher call. She has to campaign in a state with two time zones and a distinct geographic north, south divide.
And after the primary? The toughest hill to climb come after the primary. Jordan would need to make her case to Idaho’s deeply conservative Republican voters. But if there is ever a year to do just that, this is this one.
I am Mark Trahant.