Opinions

We need a governor who will put Alaskans’ rights ahead of political party values

Like many of you, I’ve spent most of my life working hard, finding a way to jump over the roadblocks too many people face when we’re not blessed with wealth and privilege. My own experience was losing my father when I was six to a robber who killed him in his office one night. You’ve all had hardship in your own ways. Mine was growing up in foster care. I’ve learned from experience that you should have a right to succeed, a right to good schools and a right to find your way to a good-paying job so you can enjoy life and thrive.

Last year, 8,800 more people moved away from Alaska than moved here. People continue to leave because they see no future. Gov. Mike Dunleavy has harmed our schools, made local taxpayers pay for state school bond debt, and harmed our urban and rural communities. Thousands of people are out of work when they could be working on shovel-ready projects. He’s created a state of austerity and unaffordable oil company subsidies. I want a state with opportunity.

A recent Anchorage Daily News article indicated party values might come before the rights of all Alaskans in this governor’s race. I think party politics should take a back seat. That’s why I worked hard to help elect and organize a coalition in the State House in 2017 of Republicans, Democrats and independents. The best ideas don’t come from one party. This governor has put party politics in the driver’s seat.

You and your children deserve a brighter future. Decimating a university that’s cut more than 150 degree and vocational education programs, lost thousands of students and made sports teams fundraise for their survival harms our economy and makes Alaska less vibrant.

The ADN’s recent article was right that I believe in your right to privacy and in equal rights for all. I’m proud I’m the only candidate in this race who believes women get to make their own health decisions, and that people deserve equal rights no matter their sexual orientation or identity. Your personal business is not my business.

Unlike both of my main opponents, I would never allow my attorney general to sue to roll back a woman’s right to choose. I’d fire them if they did. I’m the only candidate who can say that.

I want this and the next generation to have the opportunities my wife Kelly and I have had.

Kelly treats hospital patients with sometimes severe wounds. She also treats more COVID patients than she would if we had leadership willing to steer Alaskans toward the things that prevent the spread of a deadly, out-of-control COVID virus.

I began my career in Fairbanks working for Supreme Court Justice Jay Rabinowitz, and then in Anchorage as an assistant attorney general working long hours on the civil prosecution of Exxon after the catastrophic 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. As a legislator until 2018, I was proud to represent all Alaskans, rural and urban, not just those in one district.

I’ve voted to stand up for schools, children and seniors, and I’ve passed comprehensive protections for abused and neglected children. That work has resulted in awards, including from the Trump administration.

I’ve voted to protect our rivers and fish, for Alaska’s responsible mining and oil development, but against the toxic Pebble Mine. We can’t afford a governor who’s still pushing Pebble on behalf of Canadian mine executives. Or one who’s tried to empty our rural power, or PCE, fund twice since 2019.

I believe Outside factory trawlers that drag the ocean floor can’t be good for fish or crab habitat. They’re a part of the loss of king and chum salmon, as well as other fish and crab around the state. We should let science and local knowledge guide better policies to reduce factory trawler bycatch and the dumping of tons of dead fish overboard. Commercial, subsistence and sportfishing should bind us together to protect what we have, for Alaskans who fish for income, food, culture or enjoyment.

We should be equal partners with an oil industry that produces good-paying jobs. But lobbyists and our governor have made us junior partners.

I’ll work to end roughly $1 billion in unjustified oil tax subsidies we can’t afford — which Gov. Dunleavy was the deciding vote for as a legislator, and which I voted against. Those subsidies come at the expense of schools, children, seniors and a stronger PFD than this governor has ever produced. He’s handed oil companies the money we need to fund all these things.

I’m a Democrat who believes in representing everyone, regardless of party. I believe national parties don’t understand Alaska. But foremost, I’m an Alaskan who wants a brighter future for everyone in this state.

Les Gara is a former assistant attorney general and legislator, and has lived in Alaska with his wife Kelly since 1988.

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