Paulette Jordan

Paulette Jordan, Idaho’s Democratic nominee for Governor, speaks to audience members during a question and answer at The City Club of Idaho Falls on Thursday, September 20, 2018. John Roark/

Paulette Jordan, the Democratic nominee for governor, had a chance to frankly address recent controversies within her campaign at a forum held Thursday by the Idaho Falls City Club. She did not rise to the task.

Three of Jordan’s top staff members recently resigned in a repeat of a similar exodus ahead of the primary. They couldn’t discuss their reasons because they were bound by nondisclosure agreements, highly unusual in Idaho politics. To Jordan’s credit, her campaign said it’s rethinking those agreements.

But the agreements couldn’t keep resignation letters from leaking and making their way into the public eye.

The first, from her campaign scheduler, was brief but concerning, noting that the staffer felt “so embarrassed and ashamed.”

Then her campaign manager’s longer letter surfaced. It said he was resigning because Jordan was letting her backers down by failing to put together a serious campaign. It said instead of raising funds to try to win the election, fundraising seemed focused on a national political action committee set up for other purposes.

The manager said he had never seen another candidate “demean, debase, degrade or disparage” their staff in the way he had witnessed on the Jordan campaign.

How serious are these matters?

Take it from the spokesperson to Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Kristin Collum, who previously was running on a joint ticket with Jordan: “We are concerned about these allegations and, if found to be true, do not condone any illegal or misleading financial activity.”

The spokesperson emphasized that the campaigns are separate and that Collum’s staff hasn’t been asked to sign nondisclosure agreements.

Or from the communications director of the Idaho Young Democrats, who resigned his post and repeatedly used the word “vile” to describe what was happening in the Jordan campaign.

Could this be sour grapes? A parting tantrum from a man losing his job? That’s possible, though it looks less likely by the day.

Could this be about insufficient commitment, campaign finance violations or mistreatment of subordinates? That’s possible too.

Given the gravity of the matter, Jordan treated it far too lightly Thursday.

She brushed off the issue as an instance of a “double-standard” — an argument that’s hard to understand because nothing similar has happened in Lt. Gov. Brad Little’s campaign. Jordan indicated this was simply a planned, routine change in staffing — a puzzling claim given the resignation letters and the prior resignations.

A shameful moment came when Jordan received another in a series of questions about the internal issues within the campaign.

With a laugh, she said the audience submitting questions was putting too much stock in the reporting of Cynthia Sewell, an outstanding reporter at the Idaho Statesman. Without any specifics to support her statement, Jordan asserted that Sewell and the Statesman lacked integrity.

Immediately after hearing about the claim, Sewell said she stood by her reporting and wrote: “If anything I reported is factually incorrect, please let me know.” That’s what integrity looks like.

Jordan’s campaign hasn’t requested a correction to a single, solitary fact the Statesman reported.

Attacking Sewell’s integrity without any evidence or any effort to correct supposed errors, Jordan merely erodes her own.

That’s particularly sad, given the important things Jordan said in response to other questions concerning state policy.

Public lands make Idaho the incredible place that it is. Jordan wants to protect them.

A minimum wage hike could give substantial benefit to low-wage workers. Jordan supports it.

Climate change is one of the most pressing threats humanity faces, and the Republican Party, in particular, seems to be fiddling while Rome burns. Jordan wants to do something about it, and she thinks Idaho National Laboratory could play an important role in developing clean energy technologies that would help.

Jordan is right on many vital issues. Those issues deserve a better campaign than the one she is running.

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