Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paulette Jordan is not apologizing for sending a campaign email blast that critics say misled voters to think she was endorsed by the Idaho Democratic Party.
Jordan, a former two-term state representative and member of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, told The Associated Press in an email Tuesday she did not intend to mislead anyone.
Jordan is running against Boise businessman A.J. Balukoff.
"I think we are all proud to be 'Idaho Democrats' including A.J. — who used the exact same wording in a glossy mail piece sent out to his supporters," Jordan said. "Let's not repeat the mistakes of the past and fight about email wording — there is nothing Republicans would like to see more than Democrats fighting amongst themselves."
Balukoff's campaign balked at the criticism they had also misled voters.
"The mailer...features a picture of A.J. and identifies him as an Idaho Democrat. It's important to note that this is not an endorsement from the Idaho Democratic Party," Andy Bixler said, Balukoff's communication director.
The issue began on Saturday when Jordan's campaign sent out an email that identified the sender as "Idaho Dems (via Paulette Jordan)." It was targeted to supporters seeking campaign funds in the final two weeks of the gubernatorial primary campaign.
The email sparked concern from Idaho's Democratic leaders fearful the move would signal the party had picked a side in a competitive race before the upcoming May 15 primary.
"I think it's important for folks to take responsibility regardless of intent," Rep. Melissa Wintrow said, a Democrat from Boise. "The impact could potentially be damaging."
Officials with the Idaho Democratic Party have since said they've been forced to clarify they don't endorse before the primary due to the high volume of inquiries over Jordan's email.
Political Director Shelby Scott said the party asked Jordan's campaign for clarification, preferably a retraction.
Fallout from Jordan's email dust-up spurred a handful of Democratic lawmakers who previously vowed to remain neutral in the competitive race to throw their support behind her opponent A.J. Balukoff, even though it was Jordan — not Balukoff — who once worked with those same lawmakers inside Idaho's Republican-dominant Statehouse.
For example, Wintrow said she wanted to stay out of endorsing a candidate in the gubernatorial race, but officially announced Tuesday along with two other lawmakers she was throwing her weight behind Balukoff.
Balukoff is a longtime Boise School Board member, but has never held a statewide or legislative elected office.
Jordan downplayed the lack of endorsements, explaining she asked her colleagues in advance not to endorse her before resigning from her legislative post earlier this year.
At least four lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding and Wintrow, told The Associated Press they had no memory of that conversation.
"I never got that message," Rep. Sue Chew said, a Democrat from Boise. "There was a meeting where she told us it was going to be a competitive race and she told us she wouldn't pressure us for an endorsement but she never asked us not to endorse her."
Rep. Ilana Rubel, a Democrat from Boise, said she has been approached by both campaigns since the legislative session ended in March and asked if she would endorse a candidate.
"To be clear, I consider myself friends with both," Rubel said. "I have chosen not to endorse, but both sides have asked me to endorse."
Jordan has received multiple national endorsements from Planned Parenthood, Indivisible and celebrities like Cher.