Governor candidate may still resign her legislative seat

Idaho state Rep. Paulette Jordan speaks during a women’s march rally Jan. 21 in Las Vegas.
Idaho state Rep. Paulette Jordan speaks during a women’s march rally Jan. 21 in Las Vegas. AP file

Idaho Rep. Paulette Jordan’s on-again, off-again resignation could be back on again.

The two-term Plummer Democrat faces Boise businessman A.J. Balukoff in the May 15 gubernatorial primary. She’s been trying to find a way to focus on her statewide campaign without leaving her 5th Legislative District constituents and the House Democratic caucus in the lurch.

Jordan initially wanted to resign her legislative seat, while delaying the effective date until the governor appointed her replacement. A closer reading of state statutes determined that wasn’t possible, so Friday she named St. Maries City Councilor Margie Gannon as her substitute, beginning Monday.

Gannon’s Certificate of Appointment from Gov. Butch Otter says her term will continue “until such time as Rep. Jordan is able to resume her duties.” The idea was that she would fill in for the remainder of the legislative session, leaving Jordan free to campaign.

However, the section of code that allows substitutes to be appointed is clearly meant to address temporary absences. It’s titled, “Temporary Inability of Officers,” and notes that if an official “is temporarily unable to perform the duties of office, the governor may appoint (a substitute) to perform such duties temporarily.”

Given that Jordan’s absence isn’t temporary, some colleagues have wondered if appointing a long-term substitute is appropriate.

House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, said he has been in contact with Jordan, trying to determine the best way forward.

“We want to do it right,” he said. “Based on our reading of the statutes, we need to have a conversation about how best to handle this situation, so Paulette can be successful as a candidate, so the minority caucus doesn’t lose a vote and so her district has two representatives.”

Erpelding said deciding how to proceed will be a team effort, but “ultimately it’s Jordan’s call.”

Gannon “should be here through the end of the week,” he said. At that point, Jordan may choose to return to the Legislature; conceivably, she also could name a substitute for another week. Or she could resign, as she originally intended.

Jordan’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Gannon also didn’t immediately return phone messages left Tuesday afternoon.

If Jordan were to resign, state law gives the 5th District Democratic Central Committee 15 days to name three possible replacements. District Chairwoman Sandra Kelly said it probably won’t take that long, “but it may take a week.”

“We want to make sure everyone has an opportunity to express interest in the position,” Kelly said. “We’re trying to work out now, if this were to happen, whether there’s a day all the precinct committee people can meet.”

The central committee includes all the precinct committee members within the district. They would vote on which three names make it onto the list.

Once the list is submitted to the governor, he would have another 15 days to choose a replacement.

Otter spokesman Jon Hanian said the governor typically tries to fill vacancies as expeditiously as possible, but that also depends on whose names are submitted.

“In some cases, he already knows all the players and has worked with them before,” Hanian said. “In other cases, he needs to do quite a bit of homework and may even interview them. It all depends on what information is provided.”

In short, if Jordan were to resign, her seat would be vacant for at least a week, and possibly as long as three weeks, until early March. That’s about three weeks before the session is expected to adjourn.

Spence may be contacted at bspence@lmtribune.com or (208) 791-9168.