KETCHUM – Idaho Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paulette Jordan said Friday she is worried about the state’s protections for women and minorities, especially if Judge Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
When asked at a Ketchum conference session on women in Idaho politics, Jordan and Idaho Senate Minority Leader Sen. Michelle Stennett of Ketchum both said they expect to see a surge in pro-life bills this coming legislative session if Kavanaugh is confirmed.
“I think all women will be attacked,” Jordan said about what she expects the Legislature would do in its next session.
“I’m thinking once I’m governor I’m going to really have to up that Constitutional Defense Fund,” Jordan said, referring to an Idaho fund created to help cover the costs of conflicts between the state and the federal government. “I’d seen that as a waste of taxpayer resources, but now I think I’m going to use it to defend” women, people of color and other minorities.
The crowd at the Alturas Institute’s annual “Conversations with Exceptional Women” event was mostly women and Jordan and Stennett focused on the role of women in politics, diversity in the state Legislature and efforts to engage minority voters.
When the politicians were asked about the challenges they have faced as women in the statehouse and on the campaign trail, Stennett and Jordan described differing experiences.
Stennett said that while she has heard other female legislators discuss sexist incidents, she had not had many issues herself in the state Senate.
“I never came in assuming they were going to look at me like the female in the room,” Stennett said. “And consequently, they didn’t.”
Jordan, who was in the midst of her second term in the House of Representatives when she announced her candidacy for governor, began her answer by asking whether there were any members of the media in the room. When a Times-News reporter raised her hand, Jordan said, “Ah, you’re going to dampen the party a little bit,” eliciting a laugh from the crowd, before continuing.
The gubernatorial candidate went on to say that she frequently witnessed men interrupting women in committee meetings during her time in the House. She also told the crowd there were “many senior legislators who were noted for” harassing female pages and interns, citing a harassment complaint filed during the 2017 session by a female page who accused two lawmakers and a lobbyist of unwanted touching and making inappropriate comments.
“I think until you have a woman leading to show a different kind of culture and lead by example… only then will things change,” Jordan said.
Other questions from the crowd included an invitation for Stennett and Jordan to share their thoughts on how to engage women and minority voters in state politics. Both women spoke to low voter turnout and representation in public office among Idaho’s Latino population.
Stennett, who described herself as the only Latina in the Legislature, said she expected that the Hispanic population would become more politically involved as generations become increasingly American-born.
But like “the gender card,” Stennett said, “the ethnicity card shouldn’t be the value we bring” to office.
Jordan cited “a lot of challenges” in the state for Hispanic voters, such as a lack of voter ballots printed in Spanish.
She told the crowd that her campaign was the first in Idaho’s history to translate campaign materials into Spanish. Stennett noted in response that candidates in District 26 have also printed Spanish-language campaign materials in recent years.
Stennett urged conference-goers to stay politically aware and involved in the months and years to come.
“I’ve seen the electorate more engaged recently in politics than I’ve seen in decades,” she said. “But I want you to stay engaged. This is going to be a long haul.”
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