Paulette Jordan hesitates when asked if her bid to be Idaho's next governor is written in the stars, but even a casual observer can see her candidacy will be written in history books. For one, she could be the first female governor of Idaho and the first Democrat in a generation. Then, there's the heady prospect of Jordan, a citizen of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, being the first Native American governor in the United States. Her decision to run came during a political year in which a record number of women have decided to seek higher offices all across America, aiming to fix broken systems traditionally dominated by men. Only a fool would marginalize Jordan's gubernatorial run.
"I've actually had some very powerful men in my life who said, 'You're never to think of yourself as either a man or a woman. You're always to think of yourself as a leader. That's just the way it is.' I was raised to be in the front, having the courage from the onset and always willing to take the arrows," said Jordan.
Her great-great grandfathers are American legends: Chief Moses of the Sinkiuse-Columbia tribe and Chief Kamiakin of the Yakama, Palouse and Klickitat tribes. She also happens to be the daughter of Michael Jordan. Not that Michael Jordan: Although her father is not the Chicago Bulls' renowned player, he did have a short-lived professional basketball career, so it wasn't a huge surprise to discover his daughter faced off against men on the court.
"They would say, 'You play like a boy.' Then they said, 'You play like a man,'" she said. "It turns out that it really helped me go through high school and college."
Jordan, who stands 6 feet tall, was offered a basketball scholarship at Washington State University, but chose instead to attend the University of Washington on an academic scholarship. Soon thereafter, she gave up the basketball court for the court of public opinion, as a co-chair for the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians; and as a finance chair, energy initiative chair and senior executive board representative of the National Indian Gaming Association. Jordan was first elected in 2014 to represent District 5 (in north central Idaho) in the Idaho Legislature. Though she was re-elected twice, she doesn't think she's a typical politician.
"People say, 'The world is political. You're born political,' but I can promise you I don't sit around talking politics all day in terms of being a Republican or Democrat," Jordan said. "When you grow up in rural Idaho, it's based on values, not politics." She concedes that her opponents may call her a "liberal Democrat," but she doesn't mind. "Call me whatever you want to call me."
Starting in 2013 and continuing in '14, '15 and '16, political power brokers tried to convince Jordan to consider a run for Congress. Her answers were, in order, "It's not a good time," "No way," "Nope," and "Still not interested." It wasn't until March 2017, when Jordan was a guest speaker at a forum in Brussels, Belgium, attended by heads of state and North American and European corporate and intellectual elite that someone encouraged her to consider running for governor.
"She told me we send too many people to Congress; but if you're governor, you can make a bigger impact, not just on your state or nation, but the world," said Jordan. On Dec. 7, 2017, her 38th birthday, Jordan announced her 2018 gubernatorial candidacy
Jordan will go up against fellow Democrat A.J. Balukoff—who made an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2014—in a May 15 primary to decide who makes it to the November general election. "Running for office is much different than being a leader," said Jordan. "That said, I have nothing but nice things to say about A.J. The few times I've met him, he's been a gentleman. I wouldn't say anything negative, but I would say we have different perspectives that will, no doubt, be hashed out in debates."
- Courtesy Paulette Jordan
Then there's that Cher moment. A photo of Jordan and the iconic singer/actress was splashed on the front pages of newspapers across the nation when Cher endorsed Jordan during the January 2018 Women's March in Las Vegas.
"I was invited to speak at the event and somebody said, 'Cher wants to meet you.' I was surprised as anybody," said Jordan. "She was kind. She asked how things were going with my campaign, and we had a great conversation."
Cher told the world what she thought of Jordan, via Twitter, on January 24:
I Met & Talked With Paulette At LAS VEGAS WOMENS RALLY.I Believe The PPL Of IDAHO Would Be WELL SERVED With Paulette Jordan As Their Governor.She is a thoughtful, Caring,Intelligent,Woman,Who Would Work TIRELESSLY 2 BENEFIT”ALL THE PPL”Of IDAHO❤️— Cher (@cher) January 24, 2018
Even a casual observer might describe Jordan's political opponents as "Formidable."
"People ask if this campaign could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. I expect it's more like millions," said Jordan. "But am I up for it? Absolutely. The key to this election will be those Idaho voters who have been forgotten. They'll be the ones who will decide who our next governor is."