OPINION: From equal rights to education, Gara stands for Alaska

planned parenthood, roe v wade, abortion, women’s rights, women’s health care, rally, protest

We need a governor who respects the legitimate needs of all people to reach their potential. Les Gara worked hard for all of us as a legislator for 18 years. He is the only gubernatorial candidate who has consistently stood up for a woman’s right to sovereignty over her own body. He has fought for public education and academic opportunity, in stark contrast to other candidates, including two men who have served as Alaska’s governor but used their time in office to cut funding for public schools and the University of Alaska.

As a former foster youth, Les has battled plenty of adversity, and this has informed his dedication to public service. He has used his career to ensure everyone gets a fair chance to succeed. This is why Les is adamant about supporting a strong, dynamic educational system, which is essential for developing both our workforce, and meaningful, well-paid jobs as we move into an era of innovative and sustainable resource management.

Les believes we must protect our fisheries against deadly factory trawler bycatch. He has consistently opposed Pebble mine, which we all know poses an untenable threat to the greatest remaining wild salmon spawning grounds in the world.

Les has worked tirelessly to end the yearly oil company tax subsidies which amounted to $1.3 billion in 2021. We need that money to rebuild our state and bolster our savings, instead of dipping into them.

Let’s go through some facts:

Les is the only candidate in the race who supports abortion rights. This is a crucial moment in American history where 50 years of legal precedent to allow a woman to manage her family planning is at risk. Les has never wavered in his absolute commitment to a woman’s right to choose. That shouldn’t be controversial, but somehow it has become a political lightning rod. This decision is personal, not political, and must be protected definitively, lest we regress as a nation and as a democracy. By contrast, Gov. Mike Dunleavy has sued the state to side with the radical Texas law that effectively bans a woman’s right to choose. Former Gov. Bill Walker has a long-held belief that causes him to be anti-abortion. He was a major donor to the 2010 anti-abortion voter initiative, and held a fundraiser for it at his home. He promised in 2014 that if he were elected, he’d hold his personal values aside — a hard thing for anyone to do — and veto anti-abortion legislation. But then he retracted that promise and sided against pro-abortion rights precedents. Walker sued to restrict Medicaid coverage of abortion services despite Alaska courts making clear he’d lose that lawsuit — which he did. This wasted the state a lot of money. Gov. Dunleavy repeated this mistake recently; more money wasted.

Les has sponsored legislation to uphold the rights of all Alaskans to equal treatment under the law. None of his opponents have stood with their LGBTQ+ neighbors. Gov. Dunleavy has played political games with their basic rights and Walker sued to block gay marriage while governor, saying he believed “marriage can only be between a man and a woman.”

Les stands alone on commitment to public education among the main candidates. Gov. Dunleavy proposed a record $280 million cut to public education during his first year in office. Walker cut $32 million in promised statutory education funds in 2015, and vetoed more than $50 million in public education and university funds in 2016. Les has always fought for our schools and our university system.

Les is the only candidate in this race with proposals to fund job development, educational opportunity and renewable energy projects.

Les has the credibility and drive to bring Alaska, finally, into the 21st century with a new, modern economy that lifts everyone up and diversifies our energy and income streams. Les would stop the annual billion-plus-dollar giveaway of Alaska’s oil revenue by ending the oil companies’ tax credit subsidies Dunleavy voted for. As a legislator, Les consistently voted against these ludicrous giveaways, every time. Let’s make Les Gara our next governor by voting for him in the Aug. 16 primary and again in the Nov. 8 general election.

Emily Kane is a naturopathic doctor and licensed acupuncturist. She lives in Juneau.

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