BOISE, Idaho – 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. Idaho remains one of the few states where both medical and adult-use cannabis are illegal.
One Democratic gubernatorial hopeful wants to legalize medical cannabis; the other wants more study.
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 colleagues.
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. 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.
Blue Candidates, Red State
Balukoff, 71, unsuccessfully ran for political office for the first time as a Democratic gubernatorial candidate against Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter in 2014.
Jordan downplayed the significance of the endorsements, saying she was more focused on unifying Idaho’s Democratic Party rather than highlighting its difference.
Balukoff countered that his endorsements show that he can work with others and build trust.
“I would encourage you to check the record, all of the endorsements I have received have come after her candidacy,” Balukoff said, rebuffing Jordan’s claim that his endorsements came before she had thrown her hat in the ring.
Not Much Hope for Cannabis
The two candidates also notably split when debating decriminalizing marijuana in Idaho.
Balukoff and Jordan are vying to become the Democratic candidate in the upcoming May 15 primary election. In Republican-dominant Idaho, most Democratic candidates face an uphill battle in statewide and local elections.
The last time Idaho voters elected a Democrat to the top seat was former Gov. Cecil Andrus in 1990.