The list of Native American governors in American history is depressingly short. It’s zero, to be exact.
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That’s why Idaho Democrat Paulette Jordan‘s Tuesday primary win for governor was so significant. If Jordan wins the general election, she’s poised to become the first Native American governor in American history, and the first female governor in Idaho history.
It’s a historical achievement, if a painfully overdue one.
Jordan, a member of the Coeur d’Alene tribe, defeated moderate Democrat A.J. Balukoff in Tuesday’s primary. She has served two terms in the Idaho state legislature, where she emerged as one of the state’s leading young liberal voices.
She is also one of the few candidates endorsed by Indivisible, a grassroots organizing group that formed after the 2016 election.
“In Idaho, and around the country, we are seeing the power of grassroots-led enthusiasm for women leaders,” Maria Urbina, the national political director of the Indivisible Project, said in a press release. “These progressive candidates are sick of being told to ‘wait their turn.'”
“I come from a powerful line of women. I’m proud of that heritage and legacy,” Jordan previously told CNN. “The opportunity for women is now.”
Indeed, women won big Tuesday night, with Democratic women notching a record seven victories in Pennsylvania’s primary elections.
Still, Jordan has a long road ahead. Idaho is a deeply red state. The last time a Democrat was in the governor’s seat was 1995, more than twenty years ago. Just 27.5% of Idaho voters went for Clinton, while 59.2% voted for Trump. And Jordan’s policy agenda, which includes Medicaid expansion, raising the minimum wage, and increased teacher pay, is proudly left of center. It may not appeal to the state’s traditional conservatives.
State Rep. Paulette Jordan speaks during the Women’s March “Power to the Polls” voter registration tour launch.
Image: sam morris/Getty Images
Whether Jordan wins the state or not, it’s a huge step forward for a state and country that’s woefully behind in terms of electing Native American — forget Native American women — candidates. The glass ceiling hasn’t been broken, but women like Jordan are what it takes to make it crack.