Nap time? Paulette Jordan says ‘no’ and she’s running for US Senate

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye

Updated: #NativeVote20: ‘If I were Jim Risch, I wouldn’t want that matchup’

Paulette Jordan, Coeur d’Alene, isn’t giving up or at least she is not going to let the last election stop her. The former Idaho Democratic state legislator is running for the U.S. Senate this year.

“I’m excited to announce that I am announcing my candidacy to represent Idaho in the U.S. Senate. Over the past several years, I’ve had the opportunity to listen to thousands of Idahoans throughout this great state,” Jordan announced on her campaign website. “Above all, I’ve learned that our state needs new leadership. We need leaders who value people over politics.”

The Idaho Democrat Party is “excited” for Jordan’s run for the Senate.

"We're excited to see a primary with four Idaho Democratic candidates for this race. Idahoans are ready for a change in our leadership and ready to hold Senator Risch accountable for his actions in Washington,” said Lindsey Johnson, communications director of the Idaho Democrat Party. “We look forward to supporting all the candidates over the next few months."

This puts her face to face with incumbent Republican Sen. Jim Risch, who was caught sleeping during President Donald J. Trump’s impeachment trial and voted to acquit him. Jordan even said this stunt “embarrassed” the state.

“This isn’t nap time. It’s time to get to work. Mr. Risch has spent 11 years in the Senate. We can’t afford to let him sleep away six more years,” she said.

Long-time Idaho journalist and Idaho State Journal columnist Chuck Malloy wrote last month that this will give “Idahoans at least one competitive high-leve race,” especially when it’s been four decades since a Democrat held the Senate seat in the red state.

(Related: #NativeVote18 - Paulette Jordan wins over Idaho Democrats)

If successful, it would be the second time she beats an incumbent. She defeated Republican James Stivers for the seat in Idaho’s House of Representatives District 5. She served two terms before running for governor unsuccessfully in 2018.

But that’s okay.

“In some respects, Jordan may be better suited for a national office than the governorship,” Malloy wrote.

Jordan agrees that she is more suited for a Senate position than a governor.

“This is for me because I’m a nationally-recognized leader,” she said on the phone from Nevada where she will speak at the National Federation of Democratic Women Western Regional Conference this weekend. “This is a major opportunity for us and for Congress.”

She said her 2018 campaign faced challenges but was a “successful campaign.”

“We learned a lot,” she said. From that campaign she said they built community and relationships that amount to trust that she plans to bring to her Senate race.

“These relationships helped us,” she said. “It’s important and will help us in this next round.”

While Jordan is Native, she strives to represent everyone.

“We’re running to represent all voices, all walks of life,” she said. “It’s a matter of bringing justice to truth.”

That truth, she said, is Congress “not standing in the issues.” They’re not taking people seriously and not being bold. “We should all be held accountable,” she said.

A national race will also allow her to apply all of her experience in business, tribes, politics and economics from the last decade, she said.

Jordan has a lengthy resume that gives her an advantage over the other three Democrats running against Risch, Malloy wrote.

“She has strong statewide name recognitions from her run for governor two years ago and the ability to raise money — two ingredients that are essential for taking on a longtime incumbent,” Malloy wrote. “The Dems are not going to beat a guy such as Risch with slingshots.”

As Malloy stated, Jordan brings leadership experience to the table — and with that she may have some broad support.

She was the youngest member on her tribal council, she worked in the energy sector as a business development strategist, and served as the finance chair and secretary of the executive board for the National Indian Gaming Association.

She currently serves as the at-large Democratic National Committee member of Idaho’s Democratic National Committee. She was part of the Native American caucus leadership on the Democratic National Committee and created the Council on Environment and Climate Crisis with the committee. 

Former Idaho Democratic Representative Larry LaRocco told Malloy, “If I were Jim Risch, I wouldn’t want that matchup.”

Where does Jordan stand on the issues?

Since the 2108 election, the former Democratic gubernatorial candidate has been keeping busy.

Just last month, she led the Idaho 2020 Women’s March, which was organized by the Idaho Voice, one of the two nonprofit organizations she founded. The 40-year-old supports women’s reproductive rights. The progressive is also an advocate for LGTBQ rights and legalizing marijuana.

She wants to fight for adequate healthcare for Idahoans and make sure they have an affordable education

The second nonprofit that Jordan founded is Save the America Salon. It is a coalition focused on restoring the wild salmon and steelhead trout populations in the Columbia-Snake River Basin.

Jordan has a laundry list of issues she wants to tackle: healthcare, education, cyber security, social security, Medicare. She wants to be a “champion” for them all.

But her number one policy objective, which was “hard to pinpoint one,” is the environment.

“I’d love to be a champion for people on the environment and resources,” she said over the phone, which means clean water, public lands to hunt and fish on, and the climate crisis happening.

Right before jumping off the phone, Jordan did say that she sees, “Right now, we’re wholly divided.”

We need to be “caring for each other again,” she said and knows that “our people need dignity.” 

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Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné, is the Washington editor for Indian Country Today based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter: @jourdanbb. Email: jbennett-begaye@indiancountrytoday.com

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This story has been updated with quotes and information from Paulette Jordan. 

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