38-year Paulette Jordan would make history if she wins the gubernatorial race in Idaho on November 6. She would not only become the first women governor of Idaho but also the first Native American to climb to the most of Governorship in any state of the United States in its entire history.
But the odds are high against her success. Idaho is a Republican fortress which hasn’t voted for a Democratic President since Lyndon B Johnson and hasn’t had a Democratic Governor since 1995.
According to some estimates, GOP supporters outnumber Democrats 4-to-1 in the state.
The electoral topography of the state is dominated by rural and suburban areas where the conservatives dominate.
The 32-point victory that Donald Trump scored over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential elections further testifies to the redness of this province.
So, does Jordan stand any chance of pulling a rabbit out of the hat and earning a victory that will exalt her to a position of superstardom in national politics?
Only time will tell but we can certainly look at her strengths that propelled her through the primary process and made her the nominee.
Jordan’s Victory In The Primaries
It won’t be an exaggeration to say that Jordan’s election campaign in the primaries had its roots in the Democratic Party’s 2016 presidential nomination primaries.
Bernie Sanders of Vermont registered a thumping victory over the eventual nominee Hillary Clinton in the state with more than 3/4th of the vote. This established the fact that while the state overall is very conservative, the energy in the Democratic base of the party is with the progressive wing which saw Bernie Sanders as its darling.
Jordan realised this and ran a campaign on similar progressive issues. Her support for the expansion of Medicaid and stress on promoting cleaner sources of energy endeared her to the Left of the Democratic Party.
This earned her the support of various progressive organisations like Planned Parenthood, Democracy for America, Indivisible, People for the American Way and, quite crucially, People for Bernie Sanders. Even Cher supported her.
This growth of support among the base of Democrats secured her the nomination in place of the establishment’s preferred candidate AJ Balukoff.
Her Strategy And Policy Preferences For Gubernatorial Election
While she may have tapped into the latent energy of the Democratic base in Idaho, Jordan realizes that winning the main election in such a deeply conservative state requires some elements in her persona and agenda that appeal to conservatives also.
Hence she has stressed on the fact that she is a gun-owner and likes hunting, though not connected to the NRA. She is also personally pro-life while supporting abortion rights in her political stand.
Another interesting stance she has taken is supporting decriminalization of marijuana possession and legalization of marijuana’s medical form.
But where she can really make a dent in Republican popularity is her appeal to the rural voters.
By campaigning for the right of the state to hold onto its public land and prevent it from privatization, she is attempting to win over the rural territory which constitutes a vast part of the state.
In fact, it’s her championing of the rural cause that has given her an opportunity. Her personal history of growing up in a ranch makes here ideal to connect with the rural voters of Idaho and effect an upset.
The political atmosphere in the whole United States of America is charged at the moment and the state of Idaho is as electrified as any. A Republican stronghold which Donald Trump carried by 32 points is unlikely to turn blue.
But still there are dynamics in these elections which are making it much different than mid-term elections in general.
For instance, the Democratic nominee for Governor, Paulette Jordan, is running to become the first women ever to hold this position in Idaho. On top of that, she would also become the first Native American to be a governor in the history of the country.
For many, though, the real race for Governor’s position takes place in the Republican primary rather than the actual elections.
Here, the three-term incumbent, Butch Otter, has opted out of the race. This led to a seven-man contest in the Republican primary for the nominee. The incumbent Lieutenant Governor Brad Little emerged as the winner and will be the party’s nominee.
What will also be up for election would be all the executive positions in the Idaho administration such as Secretary of State, Attorney General, etc. But the second most important election after the Governor’s race would be that for the two seats of state in the US House of Representatives.
For Democrats, it is imperative that they gain control of the House in order to mount a serious challenge to the policies of Donald Trump.
Currently, the whole political landscape is hugely tilted in favor of the GOP with them controlling both houses of the Congress, the White House and majority of Governorships. This has led to rash policy-making from the Grand Old Party which has created a great deal of unhappiness in the public.
This is why the hopes of a ‘Blue Wave’ came as a pleasant relief to not just Democrats but to the wider public in general.
But can this ‘Blue Wave’ actually materialize and can it decrease the redness of Idaho? Only time will tell.
The Gubernatorial Race
So, Paulette Jordan is going to square off against Brad Little in a gubernatorial race that, many believe and not unjustifiably so, as a done deal. But Jordan is a very unique candidate and not just because of her race and gender.
She is combining adherence to those values which powered Bernie Sanders to a landslide victory over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic Presidential primary with characteristics which would appeal to a conservative base also.
While she is supporting the demand that public land be not privatized and also backing planned parenthood, her disclosure of love for hunting and ownership of guns makes her a bit more likely to attract right-leaning voters.
On the other side of the aisle, Brad Little is giving out the message that he would be a faithful follower of his predecessor’s policies. His message has been centered on continuing the stability which, he says, would be terribly disturbed by the election of ‘a big wild change’ and a ‘continuation of the Socialist from Vermont.’
He is focusing on issues such as better education and infrastructure.
However, the big difficulty he is facing is carving out his own image. He still seems to be the same as Otter and so far, very little seems to differentiate them.
Race For US Congress
Idaho has two seats in the US House of Representatives and both will be up for election this fall. The contest in the 1st Congressional district would be between Russ Fulcher of Republican Party and Cristina McNeil of Democrats.
Fulcher is a successful businessman who is using that experience to recommend himself while McNeil is the chair of the Democratic Party’s Latino Caucus in Idaho and a successful immigrant to this country. This seems to be the likely seat where there could be a change.
The 2nd Congressional District would see Mike Simpson of GOP taking on Aaron Swisher of the Democratic Party. Polls suggest that Simpson is way ahead of Swisher and it seems like a very safe seat for the Republicans.