Idaho’s Democratic gubernatorial candidates on Sunday spent most of their first televised debate in overall agreement when discussing the state’s biggest issues surrounding education, health care and taxes.
Arm teachers to improve school safety? No, said both former Rep. Paulette Jordan of Plummer and Boise Businessman A.J. Balukoff.
Expand Medicaid to help those who don’t qualify for health care coverage or make too much to qualify for a subsidy? Yes, and both have signed the petition currently being passed around the state to get a Medicaid expansion proposal on the November ballot.
Raise taxes to increase education spending? No, instead they agreed the state should find a way to reduce its long list of sales tax exemptions.
However, near the end of the hour-long debate, the two became animated when faced with questions over their endorsements. Despite having served inside the Idaho Statehouse for nearly two terms, Jordan has not received any endorsements from her Democratic colleague.
If elected, Jordan, 38, would become not only Idaho’s first female governor, but also the first Native American woman to be governor in the nation. That distinction has quickly attracted national attention. She has received endorsements from national groups like Planned Parenthood and Indivisible, as well as a celebrity endorsement from Cher.
Meanwhile, Balukoff has secured endorsements from both former and present Democratic state and congressional lawmakers — even though he has never held a state elected office.
Balukoff, 71, unsuccessfully ran for political office for the first time as a Democratic gubernatorial candidate against Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter in 2014. This time around, Balukoff’s experience working as a Boise developer and school board member has attracted praise from legislative leaders.
Jordan downplayed the significance of the endorsements, saying she was more focused on unifying Idaho’s Democratic Party rather than highlighting its difference.