By Kimberlee Kruesi, Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The only Native American lawmaker currently serving in the Idaho Statehouse announced Thursday she's running for governor in 2018.
Rep. Paulette Jordan, a 38-year-old Democrat from Plummer and member of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, says she wants to run for governor rather than seek a third term as a state representative.
"Service is an inherent value in my family, from my ancestors on down to my sons, and they will carry that tradition forward in their lives. I'm proud to be part of Idaho's family," Jordan said while speaking to a crowd of friends, family and supporters in Moscow.
"Because of who we are and who we can become, my vision for the 21st century is seeing Idaho emerge as the greatest state in the history of the United States," she said.
Jordan's announcement comes at a time when Idaho's current political field is dominated by Republicans. GOP lawmakers hold every statewide and federal elected seat, as well as the majority of the Legislature. Idaho voters haven't swung for a Democratic governor since 1990, when former Gov. Cecil Andrus won his fourth nonconsecutive term.
Furthermore, Jordan will face a competitive opponent in the Democratic primary against Boise businessman A.J. Balukoff, who announced earlier this year he is once again running for the top elected statewide seat.
Balukoff, 71, lost to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter in 2014 despite spending nearly $3 million of his own funds and securing just 39 percent of the vote. Otter has since said he won't run for a fourth term.
Balukoff ran unopposed in the Democratic primary in 2014 — which is typical in a state without many leading Democrats.
"Voters deserve a robust primary where issues affecting all hard-working Idahoans get discussed and debated," Balukoff said in a prepared statement. "Idaho needs a positive vision to jump-start prosperity in our state after years of falling behind in education, living in a low-wage economy and losing the ability to compete with the rest of the region."
According to her campaign, Jordan would not only be the first woman to serve as Idaho governor if elected, but also the first Native American woman to serve as governor of any state.
The last Native American to hold a statewide office in Idaho was in 1990, when Larry EchoHawk ran as a Democrat for attorney general after serving in the Idaho Legislature for two terms as a state representative. After serving a four-year term, EchoHawk announced he would run for governor to replace Andrus — spurring speculation he would become the nation's first Native American governor. However, he was defeated by Republican Phil Batt by roughly 35,000 votes.
EchoHawk eventually was appointed to U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs by former President Barack Obama in 2009.
On the Republican side, leading gubernatorial candidates include U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, Lt. Gov. Brad Little and Boise businessman and first-time political candidate Tommy Ahlquist.