Elections

These Idaho primaries were quite different, but each victor spoke Tuesday of hope

Jordan: 'I didn’t win this race by Democrats alone'

Surrounded by a loud, jubilant crowd in a small Boise bar, Paulette Jordan claimed victory in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, beating two-time candidate AJ Balukoff.
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Surrounded by a loud, jubilant crowd in a small Boise bar, Paulette Jordan claimed victory in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, beating two-time candidate AJ Balukoff.

Idahoans turned out Tuesday for hope, not fear.

The result was two very different gubernatorial nominees. Brad Little, a Gem County rancher, has long served next to his friend Gov. Butch Otter and now says he's ready to keep the fastest-growing state in the nation moving forward. Paulette Jordan, the two-term lawmaker and former Coeur d'Alene tribal council member, inspired a diverse group of supporters who don't naturally fit into any ideological box.

"I look at every decision that goes across the governor's desk through only one lens: How do we create the opportunity for our kids and our grandkids to stay here and thrive here?" Little said.

Jordan's campaign captured a coalition of Democrats and other progressives unhappy with the direction of the country and looking for someone with a new point of view. It grew quickly into a wildfire that has brought her and the state national attention.

If she were to win, she would be the first Native American woman elected governor in the nation.

"We started with a handful of dedicated volunteers who believed that Idaho deserves better — better healthcare, better schools and more opportunity," Jordan said. "It has been this grassroots movement that has fueled our campaign."

Lisa Sanchez, the Boise City Council member who grew up working farm fields around Burley with her mother, caught the excitement of Jordan's campaign in the packed HandleBar Tuesday. Jordan held her victory rally at the Downtown Boise bar, separate of the Idaho Democratic Party rally at the nearby Red Lion Downtowner.

"Our state and our country are ready to turn the soil," Sanchez said.

In his victory speech, Little promised to give back part of future surpluses through tax cuts to hardworking Idahoans, but also to put part of such money away for a rainy day. He got a loud round of applause when he talked about education.

"We have to be competitive in what we pay our professional educators," Little said. "We have to invest in our infrastructure and we need to rid Idaho of the negative effects of Obamacare."

Lt. Gov. Brad Little won Idaho's May 15, 2018 gubernatorial primary and will face Democrat Paulette Jordan in the general election.

Meanwhile, some of the most vocal supporters of the far right lost in Republican primaries. State Reps. Ron Nate, Tom Loertscher and Sen. Tony Potts were among at least five incumbent lawmakers whom voters evicted.

In Ada County, 34 percent of voters turned out, with 47,809 ballots cast for Republicans and 29,844 by Democrats. That's roughly 20,000 more votes in each primary than Ada residents cast in 2014.

The victors all counted a number of young people among their supporters. That included Little, whose backers filled the Riverside Hotel Tuesday night.

At the HandleBar, Hannah Gentry, 22, of Star was sitting with Hallie Decime, who had political polish on her nails. Gentry said: "It's been too long. We need to challenge the establishment and the alignment of political views. It makes sense."

Robb Mason, a Wilderness Society staffer, won his nomination for a Boise House seat with a slim victory that turned out 4,200 voters, twice what the district had historically.

"Paulette and the Medicaid initiative will bring a lot more people out than were historically seen," he predicted for November.

Female candidates from both parties fared well on Tuesday. Democrats picked women to run this fall for Congress and secretary of state. Republicans chose a female state treasurer. The general election will feature women from both parties facing off to lead Idaho's public schools, and the same thing appears likely in the lieutenant governor race — a first in state history. Women will form a majority of the Canyon County Commission.

Patricia Rich, 68, said she is an active supporter of Jordan, citing her positions on health care, the environment and "taking care of the little guy." The diversity Jordan represents was an extra plus.

"I would never vote for someone because she's a woman," Rich said. "But that she's a Native American woman is a bonus."

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