Winning the Second Time Around, Starting with Wellstone
(Photo credit: Paulette Jordan of Idaho)
We’ll skip to the back of the book: after losing her first campaign in 2012 for a state house seat in Northern Idaho by 123 votes, Paulette Jordan, a member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, ran again in 2014 and won. Sorry to ruin the ending, but it’s the heart of the story that you don’t want to miss.
What was the difference? In 2014, Paulette built a team that knocked on thousands of doors, attended hundreds of events, and ran with a deeper sense of conviction. She ran the Wellstone Way, and she had Wellstone there to help.
“When I first ran, people encouraged me to attend a Wellstone training,” Explains Paulette, “But with my day job, constant deadlines with my candidacy, and being a mom, attending a training was the last thing I thought about. People put in so much work to help me last time; I couldn’t let all that passion and energy go to waste. So when I decided to run again, one of the first things I did was attend a Camp Wellstone.”
Camp Wellstone taught her to fundraise earlier in the cycle, it taught her to not just be more strategic about the doors she knocked but how to have more impactful conversations when she connected with a voter. Yes, Camp Wellstone gave her a set of tools to win, but it also gave her the inspiration, encouragement, and confidence that she could, she would, win this time around.
“Too much of our government has lost its connection to the people they represent. My campaign was all about knocking on doors and connecting with people at community events because what I learned from Wellstone is that voters need and deserve a one-on-one connection with their representatives.”
Win or lose, it’s those connections that build enduring power in our communities. Much of her district is heavily conservative; it’s a logging and agriculture economy. “You reach people by connecting with common values, and a sense of what’s in our community’s best interest, that’s how we all work together.” Says Paulette, whose family has deep roots in the region’s ranching and farming culture. “I knew Idaho wasn’t going in a direction that was best for my community, for my children, for our values. I looked at the future of Idaho and knew we could do better, so that was my message, that’s what I talked to people about.”
During the campaign, Paulette attended a pride rally near the University of Idaho in Moscow, ID. As she tells it, “A young man came up to me, and he said how inspiring it was to see me, a young Native woman running for office in rural Idaho. He had just come out to his family and felt alone, but seeing me at the festival gave him hope. It was incredibly humbling and it gave me energy right when I needed it the most.”
Winning matters. It matters a lot. But sometimes the most powerful part of the story is how you get to the end. For Paulette, running her campaign the Wellstone Way meant not just winning, but strengthening her community. So when she talks to first time candidates, she’ll offer an important piece of advice, “You’re not given a handbook when you decide to run for office, it’s hard to prepare. So if you’re stepping up to the plate, start with Wellstone."