By Cameron Rasmusson
With days to go before the Nov. 6 election, Democratic candidates for state office are making a final sweep through North Idaho to energize supporters.
Idaho gubernatorial candidate Paulette Jordan is rallying supporters this week in the home turf of the Idaho Panhandle. Likewise, Idaho Secretary of State candidate Jill Humble visited Sandpoint this week to meet with voters and county employees, whose work is directly affected by the office she is pursuing.
According to Jordan, her biggest job in the final week before the election is painting a distinction between herself and her opponent. And she believes that distinction is best reflected in the way they’ve run their campaigns.
“The biggest difference is I’m here for the people and haven’t taken any corporate money,” Jordan said.
That is reflected in the candidates’ contrasting approaches to health care. While Little has declined to endorse Proposition 2, which will expand Medicaid in Idaho to cover uninsured state residents in the so-called income gap, Jordan has made the ballot initiative a centerpiece of her campaign. She argues that should Idahoans approve Medicaid expansion through Proposition 2, they’ll need a friendly administration in the governor’s office to ensure that it is properly executed.
Proposition 2 gained a surprise supporter this week when Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter endorsed the ballot initiative this week. According to Jordan, it’s too little, too late after years of failing to address the problem.
“They’ve had nine years to do something about this … and they haven’t,” Jordan said.
The best chance of success for Jordan’s campaign lies in exciting and energizing young and first-time or infrequent voters. To that end, she’s been impressed by the number of those individuals who have expressed their intent to vote. Even kids too young to vote have pledged to recruit eligible individuals who will vote on their behalf.
“I think people are enthusiastic about our candidates this year — I hear that a lot,” Humble said.
Increasing voter turnout is of central interest to Humble, too. She believes that her opponent, Republican incumbent Lawerence Denney, has failed to encourage voter turnout and improve ease of voting. She believes that introducing measures like automatic voter registration upon issuance of legal IDs like driver’s licenses and automatically-renewed absentee ballots are effective first steps.
“I think this would increase voter registration and turnout—for everyone, it doesn’t matter what party you are,” Humble said.
A lack of partisanship is a key element that Humble believes is lacking under Denney. She points to instances like the 22 billboards, funded through state dollars, that advertised the Republican and Constitution Party primary elections. Humble believes she has the administrative experience to run state elections in a fairer and more hands-on manner.
In charting a path to victory, Jordan is hoping her North Idaho roots will boost regional support for herself and Democratic candidates like Humble. She argues that a vote for her means greater representation for North Idaho and its regional interests. For instance, Jordan wants to take a more proactive approach to prevent and control wildfires, now a regular element of North Idaho’s late summers. Jordan proposes keeping firefighters active year-round, working to clear brush and other fuels in Idaho forests when the fire danger is low. Wildfire danger is also a key element of Jordan’s position to not sell a single acre of Idaho’s public lands.
It also means that regional issues like the proposed Newport smelter will receive greater attention in Boise, Jordan said. An opponent of the smelter, Jordan believes it’s the Idaho governor’s responsibility to work with Washington officials and agencies to ensure Idaho’s interests are represented in the permitting process.
“I feel there’s a strong need for us (in North Idaho) to fight for our position to have a seat on the table,” Jordan said.
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