BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Democrat Paulette Jordan is no stranger to long shots, occasionally touting her trips to the shooting range during her campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. Jim Risch. Still, Jordan’s race against Risch is likely her longest shot yet in the ultra-red state of Idaho.
The 77-year-old incumbent has a long political history in Idaho, serving as a state lawmaker, lieutenant governor and governor before he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008. He easily won reelection in 2014, defeating Democrat Nels Mitchell with more than 65% of the vote. Risch remains heavily favored to win Tuesday’s election.
Jordan, also a former state lawmaker as well as a Coeur d’Alene Tribal Council member, has avid supporters gained in her unsuccessful 2018 gubernatorial run against then-Lt. Gov. Brad Little. She’s campaigned hard on fiscal responsibility, taking aim at what she said is Risch’s support of big federal spending despite ever-increasing national debt. The national debt has grown from about $9 trillion just before Risch entered Congress to an estimated $26 trillion.
Risch, meanwhile, hasn’t done much heavy campaigning, relying on his reputation as one of the most conservative members of Congress. He chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and remains an avid supporter of President Donald Trump, and has the endorsement of groups like the National Rifle Association and the National Right to Life Committee.
Jordan won the endorsement of the National Education Association and EMILY’s List, an organization that works to get Democratic women who support abortion rights elected. She’s also made the rounds with several news organizations across the state, winning the endorsement of the Idaho Statesman newspaper in Boise and favorable editorials from other newspapers.
Jordan, 40, is a member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and was the youngest person to serve on the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Council when she was elected to the post in 2008. In 2014 she was elected to Idaho’s House of Representatives, serving for two terms before stepping down to run for governor in 2018.
At the time, supporters hoped she would become the country’s first Native American governor, and she gained widespread media attention and broad support outside Idaho. Still, she lost the race to then-Lt. Gov. Brad Little.
During their Senate campaigns, both Risch and Jordan played on their long Idaho backgrounds, running similar television ads featuring common Idaho tropes like guns, tractors, horses and pastoral scenery.
Jordan supports the Affordable Care Act, and has said she would work to improve health care, in part by incentivizing evidence-based medical treatment and reducing the cost of prescriptions. She’s also advocated for improving Idaho’s position in the agricultural technology industry, and said she would fight for responsible spending by Congress and invest in improving Idaho’s infrastructure.
Risch opposes the Affordable Care Act and has said he’ll push to have the private sector, not government, provide the bulk of health insurance plans and medical services. He’s repeatedly blamed the Chinese government for the coronavirus pandemic, and has said the U.S. needs to learn to compete better with China in the world market. He’s also worked for increased state and local control of public lands.
Constitution Party candidate Ray J. Writz and independent Natalie M. Fleming are also running for the Senate seat. Fleming, a software developer and substitute teacher says she’d like to make it easier for Americans to achieve home ownership and increase access to higher education by having federally funded universities offer free online video versions of their courses.
Writz, a former janitorial business owner who has also worked in construction and accounting, has said he’s running to give Idahoans a third-party option. He’s said he would seek to help Republicans and Democrats work together for the best of the country rather than their own self-interests.
Idaho remains one of the reddest states in the nation, with Republicans holding every statewide office and the vast majority of the state Legislature. The state’s congressional delegation has been held solely by Republicans for nearly every year since 1995 — the only exception between 2009 and 2011 when Democrat Walt Minnick served in Idaho’s 1st Congressional District.
Idaho hasn’t sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since since Sen. Frank Church left the office in 1981 after more than two decades in Congress.