Could Paulette Jordan Be This Country’s First Native American Governor?

Stacey Abrams has been running a fantastic campaign in Georgia to be the first African American female governor in this country. If the polls are accurate, the race is going to be a nail-biter, so there are a lot of reasons why we’ve been hearing so much about it.

But we’ve heard a lot less about Paulette Jordan, who could be the first Native American governor in this country’s history, male or female. She’s currently running as the Democratic nominee in Idaho.

One of the reasons we haven’t heard as much about Jordan is that sites like FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics list the governor’s race in Idaho as “safe GOP.” The few polls that have been conducted give her opponent, 64-year-old multimillionaire Lt. Gov. Brad Little, an 8-12 point advantage. But Jennifer Bendery writes that Jordan is making it a race with an unconventional campaign.

Here in deep red Idaho, people across party lines are fanatic about this progressive, 38-year-old Native American woman vying for the state’s top seat. And it’s totally bizarre…

She has been writing her own playbook the entire time: She’s not taking any corporate PAC money and supports Medicaid expansion while advocating for gun rights and rural ranching culture. Her go-it-alone approach has led to some hiccups, and old guard Democrats are irritated that she’s running an unconventional campaign that doesn’t include them. But she has undeniably shaken up the state’s political infrastructure and turned the governor’s race into a real fight.

The enthusiasm gap between Jordan and her opponent, 64-year-old multimillionaire Lt. Gov. Brad Little (R), was obvious after their last debate. The self-described undecided voters in attendance swarmed her for photos and questions as he quietly slipped out. One veteran waited in line for 15 minutes to meet her and promptly ripped a sticker off of his shirt bearing Little’s name, saying he is voting for her instead.

There are a lot of elements of this story that sound familiar. It is about a young woman not only running for office, but doing it her own authentic and visionary way. As you can see from the ad above, rather than shying away from her Native American roots, Jordan embraces them. That still might not be enough to win the governorship in a deeply red state like Idaho. But Paulette Jordan is giving it a shot, which is why this one is going to be added to the list of races I’ll keep my eye on as results roll in on November 6th.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .