Paulette Jordan May Become the First Native American Governor In US History: Here’s Her Story

Written by on June 12, 2018 in Government, Politics with 0 Comments

‘The goal is to bring back real representation – whether a man or woman – bringing back leadership to the people,’ says Paulette Jordan

By Clark Mindock |

Amid an unprecedented wave of women running for office in the age of President Donald TrumpPaulette Jordan is hoping to achieve an extraordinary electoral feat in a deeply conservative state that would make her a string of firsts:

She would be the first Native American governor in the history of the US, the first woman governor of Idaho, and the first Democrat to be elected to lead the state in a generation.

But for all of those potential distinctions should she be elected come November, Ms Jordan doesn’t seem to be all that interested in them. They’re nice, sure, but she says she has her sights set on bigger fish — like reaching out to voters across the Gem State with her message, and gaining their trust at a time of urgency for progressive causes nationwide.

Everything else is just window dressing.

“I think it’s great, and I’m really excited that we are breaking a lot of barriers from age and race to gender, but it’s not the goal,” Ms Jordan, 38, tells The Independent. “The goal is to bring back real representation – whether a man or woman – bringing back leadership to the people that they can be confident and believe in.”

“Ultimately, while I do appreciate that, I think that this comes back to the people,” Ms Jordan continues, contemplating the historic nature of her campaign. She knows the scale of her task. Mr Trump won the state of Idaho, which is more than 80 per cent white, by 32 points in the 2016 presidential election. Ms Jordan has also made clear her opposition, a number of times during her candidacy, to the way Mr Trump is running the country – but she prefers to concentrate on the change she could bring.

Ms Jordan was raised in the northern panhandle of Idaho, where her grandparents, parents and great grandparents passed down centuries’ worth of values and knowledge she says have defined her life and political career. Namely, that leadership means accountability to those who are being served, that mother earth is to be respected and cared for, and that everyone deserves access to basic services – from healthcare through to expanded Medicaid to quality education.

“My grandfathers, they were all great chiefs. My grandmothers were chiefs. When I was growing up there was always this very direct insight to me that I was expected to lead,” she says. “They brought me up from a very young age to always be at the forefront to address the people.”

She says that it was those formative years in the rural northern Idaho – a region dotted with towering pine trees, jagged mountains and gullies that are emblematic of the American West – that helped construct the way she approaches politics and activism today.

“What I love about that is it goes back to a very deep way of thinking, which is this contract that we have with mother earth, and how everything stems from there,” Ms Jordan says of the lessons she has learned from her heritage. “So, it’s about the environment. It’s about wildlife, our ecosystems and ensuring there’s balance. It’s really a conversation that goes above and beyond the politics that we’ve been hearing for the last many decades.”

Ms Jordan, who still lives in northern Idaho with her two sons, and who serves in the state House of Representatives, was introduced into political activism at the University of Washington, where she was involved with the city council and the student advisory board.

Her time in Seattle was marked, in part, by a massive moment of protest during the 1999 World Trade Organisation ministerial conference, when protesters took to the streets on such a massive scale that police were overwhelmed and the governor of Washington was forced to call in the National Guard to help establish order.

Even though she is a Democratic candidate in a deep red state, Ms Jordan is optimistic that her message will resonate with Idahoans – and she has proven herself able to do so in the small district she currently represents.

Her election in 2014 to the seat saw her unseat an incumbent Republican, and she is currently just one of 11 Democrats in the 70 member state House of Representatives.

For Ms Jordan, the issue of Democrat or Republican is less important than being able to speak to the things that matter to the people she hopes to lead.

“I think it comes down to speaking to the people about their needs – which will be healthcare, opportunity and a simple way of life where they’re able to have access to the freedoms that we fight for,” Ms Jordan says when asked how she thinks a Democrat can be competitive in the state. “Being independent. Being inclusive and feeling safe and secure in our society.”

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