WASHINGTON ― Former Idaho Democratic gubernatorial nominee Paulette Jordan is running for Senate, she told HuffPost in an exclusive interview.
“I’m running because I know I can win,” Jordan said late Thursday. “Idaho is ready for new leadership. Idaho needs new leadership.”
Jordan, a progressive Democrat in deep-red Idaho, will formally announce her campaign later Friday. She is running for the seat currently held by Republican Sen. Jim Risch, who is up for reelection in November.
It’s a long-shot bid for Jordan. She’ll take on at least three other Democrats in the May primary, and, if she wins that, Risch will be a formidable opponent in November. He’s rich as hell. He’s a two-term senator who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee. And the 76-year-old is a socially conservative white man like all of Idaho’s other leaders. Jordan, 40, couldn’t be more different: a populist Native American woman who supports legalizing marijuana and has been a forceful advocate for LGBTQ and women’s reproductive rights.
But she’s already chalked up some wins in Idaho politics. Jordan was a two-term state legislator, and, though she lost the governor’s race in 2018, she trounced in the primary when she went up against multimillionaire A.J. Balukoff, who had the party establishment behind him. She wasn’t shy about ripping her state party leaders then for being biased ― “people just aren’t used to thinking that a woman of color, or a woman period, can win” ― and this time around, she’s got Republicans and Democrats working on her campaign.
Asked how she thinks she can unseat Risch, Jordan said he’s vulnerable because he’s out of touch with Idahoans on priority issues like affordable health care, a good education and protecting public lands. Greed in Washington, she said, is tearing people apart.
“A lot of folks have been pushed down in this country and stripped of their dignity. People are struggling to make ends meet,” she said. “We need to bring people up and allow them to access prosperity. Whether you’re independent or Republican or Democrat, we need to be a country that cares about each other again.”
Risch is “wholly” a part of the problem, too, she added.
“The man has been sleeping at the wheel since he got elected ― literally and figuratively,” Jordan said, referring to Risch being caught sleeping on the Senate floor during President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial earlier this month. “He has disserved the public.”
A Risch campaign spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.