What Idaho election meant for Paulette Jordan, Raul Labrador


Five months ago, when then-state legislator Paulette Jordan announced she was running for governor, few Idahoans outside of North Idaho and statewide political and tribal circles knew who she was.

Anyone who ran an online news search on her last year would have come up with a smattering of results, mainly stemming from her position within the Coeur d’Alene tribe.

Following her quick and focused path to victory as the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, now not only does Idaho know who she is, but so does the nation. Run that Google news search today and 24,500 results pop up, including articles from The Atlantic, The Nation, HuffPost and BuzzFeed.

And while the Statesman’s editorial board endorsed Jordan along with several national progressive groups, her fellow Democratic lawmakers were not as supporting, with nearly all of them opting to endorse her opponent.

CNN traveled to Boise to cover Jordan on Tuesday, and more than a dozen national news outlets followed Idaho’s elections to learn if someone vying to become the nation’s first Native American governor would win the primary.

They also were drawn by U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador’s bid for governor. So far this year, Labrador is the fifth sitting GOP congressman to lose a bid for statewide office or to lose his seat in a primary.

In Idaho’s most competitive Democratic gubernatorial primary in decades, Jordan beat her closest opponent, AJ Balukoff, by 18 points. But the GOP race was not as decisive.

Lt. Gov. Brad Little won with 37 percent of the vote. Labrador received 33 percent and Boise businessman Tommy Ahlquist received 26 percent in his first run for political office.

Ahlquist and Balukoff may go back to their day jobs as multimillionaire businessmen. But what will Raul Labrador do? His federal gig ends this year. A former immigration attorney, he will have to get his Idaho attorney credentials reinstated if he wants to practice law in Idaho.

Labrador shared his first reaction to the election results in a written statement Wednesday afternoon, thanking his campaign volunteers and calling for unity. He also congratulated Little.

“It was a long, hard fought battle and I respect the voice of the people,” Labrador said. “It’s now time to set aside our differences and unite as a party to do everything we can to ensure strong Republican victories in November. I urge my friends and supporters to rally behind our nominee.”

The Statesman will speak with Jordan and Little later on Wednesday. Check back for updates to this report.

Cynthia Sewell is Idaho Statesman’s government and watchdog reporter. Contact her at (208) 377-6428, [email protected] or @CynthiaSewell on Twitter.

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