Paulette Jordan on Thursday downplayed recent turnover in her campaign and pushed back against media coverage of it.

Jordan, a former state House member and the Democratic candidate for governor, spoke Thursday to the City Club of Idaho Falls. The lunchtime forum, which had been scheduled a while in advance, came after a tumultuous week for Jordan. Three of her top campaign staffers resigned late last week under murky circumstances, telling media they couldn’t talk about it due to non-disclosure agreements.

Then, the Idaho Statesman reported Thursday that Jordan has been involved in raising money for the “Strength and Progress” federal political action committee, which was formed by Coeur d’Alene tribal leadership earlier this summer to lobby on Native American issues. The Statesman quoted her campaign manager Michael Rosenow’s resignation letter, in which he wrote one reason he was leaving was the campaign was focused too much on the PAC and not enough on winning the election.

“These sort of questions, I think, come with the whole standard of being the first of anything,” Jordan told the City Club. “First woman in our state, which is wholly our responsibility to make happen. But what I’ve found out is the bigger you become in name and recognition, and I’ve been told we are a nationally recognized leader and people are really looking to us across the world to make a difference, not only in our state and our country but literally across the globe. I find there’s a lot of responsibility in that. And so, when there are small little shifts, which are very common, people will certainly exploit that shift.”

The first few questions at the forum were related to the resignations and the PAC. Jordan said both staff leaving and non-disclosure agreements are normal. She said her campaign’s fundraising has been aboveboard, and that she has received more than 12,000 individual contributions averaging $40 each.

“Gosh, you all really lean on Cynthia Sewell,” Jordan said, referring to the Statesman reporter who wrote Thursday’s article. “You know the media really lack integrity with the Statesman, it’s unfortunate. But given that, the lack of integrity has certainly misconstrued the reality of anything.”

Jordan said after Thursday’s forum that she has been advising the Strength and Progress PAC. She said she hopes to use it to support women candidates for federal office, and said the media should look into the fundraising of Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and her Republican opponent Brad Little.

“Why is it a problem that we (want to) support other women?” she said.

Jordan is a member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and was on the Tribal Council before running for the Legislature. She would be Idaho’s first woman governor and the first Native American governor in the U.S. if she wins. She is running against Little, who is lieutenant governor now, for the top job; Otter is stepping down after three terms. Little will be speaking to the City Club on Tuesday.

Jordan answered a wide variety of audience questions on other topics during the hour-long forum. She said the state should do more to combat climate change. She said Idaho needs to elect people who believe human-caused climate change is real — many Republican officeholders don’t — and criticized the Legislature for trying to edit references to climate change in the school curriculum.

“We haven’t yet even had a committee hearing in the statehouse to address this issue,” she said. “But as governor, you must lead the conversation.”

Jordan praised Idaho National Laboratory’s work in developing clean sources of energy, mentioning plans for small modular reactors in particular, and she said would be visiting the lab soon. She also said she supports adhering to the 1995 Settlement Agreement that sets deadline for the federal government to remove old waste from Idaho.

“The INL, to me, has been a very key function in how we are going to be the western hemisphere’s leader in energy development,” she said.

Jordan said she supports legalizing medicinal marijuana and growing hemp in the state.

“People are looking at exporting hemp in our state but we haven’t legalized it,” she said.

She said after the forum she would support legalizing recreational marijuana if that’s what the people want, but that it should be up to them.

Jordan also criticized Little for a campaign ad during the Republican gubernatorial primary that attacked his opponent, U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, for his views on immigration and used the term “illegals.”

“Clearly this person is insensitive to a population of people that are simply human beings. ... If they’re undocumented they’re undocumented. There’s no such thing as anyone being illegal,” Jordan said.

Jordan’s campaign has gotten much more attention from national and even international media than an Idaho governor’s race usually does. She said this has been good for the state.

“We’re inviting national media because they say they want to cover this race,” she said. “They want to know what Idaho is about.”

Jordan said she hopes she can restore people’s faith in the idea that their government belongs to them.

“Unless you’re a millionaire or you’ve got a lot money, you’re shut out,” she said. “Unless you’re one of the privileged few, you (don’t have) a seat at the table.”

Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNews.

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