Idaho Democrats kick off their convention this weekend in Caldwell. The delegates will meet for two days to discuss the party’s strategy going into election season in November.
Will Reid spoke to Van Beechler, First Vice Chair on Wednesday about Paulette Jordan’s win, how the excitement surrounding her campaign may bleed into other races, and the convention’s speaker, Jason Kander.
This transcript has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Q: How is the Democratic establishment adjusting to Jordan’s progressive energy?
A: We’re all really embracing it. We haven’t seen this sort of enthusiasm in almost what? Fifteen years with voter turnout? Hitting the ground running, we have organizers all over the state. We have progressive candidates running all over the state. So we’re like, yeah this is fantastic. We’re running with it.
Q: Will this energy affect other elections in the state?
A: I really think it will. I think we’re going to see higher voter turnout down-ballot everywhere in the state, even rural areas. I think it’s going to be a really great thing, and I look forward to picking up a few seats.
Q: One theme nationally is a fear on the part of establishment Democrats that progressive candidates will alienate more moderate voters. How do you think that dynamic plays out in a state like Idaho where Republicans have such a large majority?
A: I think fear always comes with change. I think ultimately we’re going to come out ahead on this as Democrats in Idaho. I think this midterm election will be a big one for us, and to kind of ease those fears when we take back a few of those seats.
Q: Your keynote speaker is Jason Kander, former Missouri Secretary of State. What about his message do you think will appeal to Idaho Democrats?
A: He’s fantastic. He’s a dynamic speaker. He’s young. He gets people energized. He’s president of Let America Vote, which is fighting against voter suppression. I think he is a great people to get people excited about this election. We’re thinking he’ll be great to keep our momentum and get people excited about Democratic politics here in Idaho.
Q: You mentioned he’s president of Let America Vote, a non-profit that fights against voter suppression. Is that an issue you’re concerned about here in Idaho?
A: I think it’s an issue that we’re not safe from. It’s an issue we’re seeing across the country, especially in marginalized communities, in communities of color, in immigrant communities. I think it’s something that we need to be facing very directly and head-on and be preventative about because it’s the key to our democracy, right? So I think we’re being extremely proactive.
Q: Last election, Democrats lost a few seats in the legislature. What’s your strategy to prevent further losses and win back a few seats?
A: We’re in a really unique position right now where we have field organizers all over the state identifying new voters and unaffiliated voters. We definitely have targeted races. We’re expecting to pick up a few that we lost in 2016 and hopefully a few more than that.
Q: Do you have a plan for building up your back bench?
A: We definitely encourage people to run for any seats they feel they can make a difference, whether that be school board or the hundreds of state boards and commissions. We support those candidates in any way we can. We view ourselves as an organization that helps people.
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