Paulette Jordan Could Become Idaho's First Female and First Native American Governor

An unprecedented number of women are chasing political office in the 2018 midterm elections. This month, we're profiling several worthy candidates who are seeking to effect change. 

Paulette Jordan
Photo: Otto Kitsinger/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Paulette Jordan loves her land. As a proud member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Council in her home state of Idaho, she cites her Native American roots and connection to public lands as her impetus for getting into politics. Now, after serving two terms in Idaho’s House of Representatives, the state legislator is vying for governorship.

“Women like me are very independent and resourceful. We love our land, we love our people. But right now, we're being attacked on everything from independence and rights in healthcare to our public lands,” Jordan says. “As my grandmother [who was a chief] would say, ‘It's always up to the woman to take charge and defend her people.’”

If she wins in November, Jordan, who hails from a prominent line of Native American chiefs in the Northwest, would be the first woman and the first Native American governor in the state's history. It will be no easy feat for the Democrat to turn a historically red state blue, but she’s up for the challenge. “People are ready for a change,” she says. “Women will change this nation together.”

In addition to making sure public lands remain, well, public, Jordan promises to advocate for wider access to healthcare. As a mother of two sons, Jordan says improving rural education systems is also high on her list of key issues to address if elected.

Read on for more on Jordan’s roots and her plans to rally women and effect change in Idaho.

Up for the challenge: When asked about the biggest issues she’d like to address if elected Governor, Jordan’s response is quick and simple: public lands. “Vast portions [of public land] are being sold off to the highest bidder,” she says. “On top of that, access to healthcare and then, of course, education.”

Turing red into blue: Idaho is a historically red state, voting Republicans into the Governor's office consistently since 1995 in a state that's also voted Republican in presidential elections from Nixon to Trump. But Jordan remains unfazed. After all, she’s already unseated a Republican incumbent in state office. And she’s determined to capitalize on her connection to the people and the land during this election cycle. “We’re looking for something new and much more innovative,” she says. “For example, we have a huge wage-income gap in this state. But people are waking up, saying, ‘We can do better.’”

Jordan says she finds hope in the vast number of women rising up across the country and within her state to fight for equality. “More people are coming out as independents or unaffiliated and say that they want a leader who's like them and definitely represents their needs and concerns," she says. "That’s what’s going to help us get through November.”

Native inspirations: Jordan’s grandparents, all former chiefs, are huge inspirations in her choice to pursue political office. “They’ve passed on now, but they took care of me and raised me to be who I am,” Jordan says. “When you go through tough times, you always resort to the teachings of your elders. For me, it's looking at what they would do and how they would respond to people. They never judged. They always spoke out of kindness towards others. And I think that's what leadership should be about – having that sense of compassion towards others.”

Women who run: “Our country needs more of our kind of leadership,” Jordan says when asked about the influx of female candidates across the country. “Now we're faced with a country who sees women who are far more compassionate and who listen to the needs of the people all across the world rise up. They're stepping out in the millions, taking action for themselves and their families.”

Flurry of firsts: “There's always this grand responsibility that comes with being the first anything,” Jordan explains. “To me it's a great honor and a huge privilege.” Jordan says she will do her best to focus on ensuring more opportunities for women and protecting women’s rights, especially “when it comes to equal pay, reproductive rights, and health care as well and creating a balance.” It’s a big job. “But I'd rather it be me taking these arrows than anyone else.”

Best advice: To all the women considering running for office, Jordan says, “Continue to fight, be bold and unapologetic in how you operate. Always do right by the people first.” It’s a recipe for success as far as the candidate is concerned. Her faith in the power of women is unwavering. “Women will change this nation together.”

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