Opinions

I’m switching from Republican to independent in Alaska’s U.S. House race. Here’s why.

I announced my campaign for Alaska’s sole seat in the U.S. House of Representatives on Independence Day, 2021. I filed as a Republican, having run in the Republican primary for a state House race in 1994 — I lost by five points, 52.5%-47.5%. Since beginning my congressional campaign last summer on the Fourth of July, things have changed.

On the campaign trail, many people have told me that both the Republican and Democratic parties have gotten off track on concerns that matter to Alaskans. I agree, and like many Alaskans, I no longer feel at home in either party. I am still a principled, pragmatic, get-it-done, no-drama, conservative. But now I believe I can best represent the Last Frontier’s independent-spirited Alaskans in Congress as an independent.

I am declaring as an independent for three reasons. First, Republican senators and members of Congress, with too few exceptions, are distracted relitigating the last election and are not passionately working to fix the really difficult problems facing Alaskans and the country today. There is no excuse for this neglect of their core mission and there are no signs the situation is improving.

Second, too many active Republicans are either silent or deaf on some important issues facing Alaskans. They are silent when it comes to the widespread lack of affordable housing, homelessness, health care and the high cost of prescription medicines. They are turning a deaf ear to the call on our Alaskan generation to craft balanced strategies for growing jobs and helping our economy recover from COVID-19, while simultaneously addressing the fierce urgency of climate change. And Republicans generally seem to be frozen by inaction on internet scams, cybersecurity and privacy, as well as on protecting us from identity theft, spyware and ransomware.

The third and deeper reason why I am now declaring myself an independent is the Republican Party’s growing effort to compromise election integrity and democracy across the country. In 2021, Republican legislators introduced bills in Arizona, Missouri and Nevada that would allow the state legislatures to nullify and veto their voters’ voices, and directly or indirectly reject presidential and other election results. For example, Arizona H.B. 2027 would grant the state Legislature the ability to revoke the secretary of state’s certification “by majority vote at any time before the presidential inauguration.” Thank God none of these bills have yet become law.

Democracy is sacred. Voting is sacred. Voters are sacred. These are bedrock American principles reaching back before the founding of the country. The Boston Tea Party was a fight over “taxation without representation” — voting. We fought our war for independence from the dictatorial king of England to govern ourselves through legally eligible voters voting for our governmental leaders. Any attempt to erase legitimate votes is sacrilegious.

Regrettably, some Alaska Republican candidates may now be flirting with this. Possibly more will do so as this campaign season unfolds. I support these candidates’ right to speak their piece in the marketplace of ideas. But I will not stay silent while core democratic values are attacked. As an independent, I will put my competing message into the same marketplace: Voters, not partisan legislatures or others, are the ultimate voice in our democracy. I also want to show our young people how to protect the democracy envisioned by our nation’s founders. Our forebearers fought for democracy. I will, too.

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On the other side of our two-party system, the Democratic Party is also a mixed bag for Alaska. The Democrats’ currently proposed $1 trillion package has things in it that we need for Alaskans, including climate change mitigation measures. But it also has a lot of lard. Regrettably, Democrats are living up to their well-earned reputation for too much spending.

However, Democrats also laudably generated the infrastructure bill that will bring an estimated $10 billion or more to critical Alaska projects. Sen. Lisa Murkowski courageously helped negotiate this, and all of Alaska’s Republican congressional delegation commendably voted for it. They did so despite opposition from a majority of Republican senators and U.S. representatives who disregarded the extensive needs of their home states for the empty purpose of denying Democrats a legislative victory.

I recently served as the manager of the two largest local governments in Bristol Bay, where I helped protect these communities from COVID-19 during the annual summer surge of thousands of commercial fisherman and cannery workers in the heart of the world’s largest red salmon fishery. I know firsthand the immeasurable value these billions of dollars will bring for repairing Alaska’s aging roads, ferries, water and sewer systems, communications and ports. It doesn’t matter who launched this important legislation. It matters that we have it.

I switched from Republican to independent on Jan. 6, the one-year anniversary of the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol. This attack was an attempt to obstruct America’s greatest triumph of democracy — the peaceful transition of the political leadership of our country. On this anniversary, the state and national Republican Party websites stayed silent. I will not. We must see Jan. 6 for what it was and must never let it happen again.

Neither party has a monopoly on crafting effective solutions to Alaska’s problems, nor on making mistakes along the way. But, as I see it, neither party is effectively devoting all of the energy and creativity we need now. Alaska needs a new, conservative, creative, independent voice in Congress to tackle a new generation of Alaskan challenges. I am ready to meet those challenges and will work with everyone who will strive with me to serve Alaska’s interests.

Gregg B. Brelsford is an independent candidate for Alaska’s sole seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2022 election. He ran in a Republican primary for the Alaska House of Representatives in 1994. Brelsford is a former manager of the Bristol Bay Borough and the City of Dillingham (interim). He is also a former CEO of the Aleutian/Pribilof Islands Associations, one of the 12 regional tribal governing bodies throughout the state. Additionally, he has served on the Board of Directors of the Alaska Federation of Natives. He now lives in Anchorage.

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