OPINION: For Alaska governor, only one ticket has an unblemished record on protecting women’s rights

As your right to choose is being attacked, and people are leaving this state because they see no future, we want you to know Alaska can be a much better place. We want a future with real opportunity, great schools and good-paying jobs.

As the only true pro-choice ticket in this governor’s race, we’ll also address the range of poor records and positions on choice by every opponent running for governor.

We have a plan that respects women, the right of children to opportunity, and the need to create an economy with good schools and good paying jobs so people don’t keep moving away from this state. This is your chance to elect better leaders who’ll build a state where you and your children can succeed again, with equal opportunity for all.

We’ll address what wasn’t said in a recent column seeking support from pro-choice Alaskans by former Gov. Bill Walker. He promised to put aside his “pro-life” beliefs. You need some facts to assess that promise, which he also made last time he was governor, when his administration acted to roll back the right to choose.

As governor from 2015-2018, as in this election, Walker ran with a pro-choice lieutenant governor candidate. Despite election promises, his administration sued to roll back Medicaid coverage of abortion for poor women, and sued to ban gay marriage.

Les and Bill get along personally, despite their disagreements. They both worked to adopt Medicaid expansion, which has brought health care and jobs to thousands of Alaskans. They both tried breaking partisan political divides.

But Les strongly disagreed with Walker’s lawsuits against choice and gay marriage. Les asked for them to be dropped. They weren’t. He asked for then-Attorney General Craig Richards to be fired. He wasn’t. Richards was instead appointed twice by Walker to the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. Board of Trustees, where he remains a partisan.

Walker writes that he’ll do better next time. It’s at least better that what all the other main candidates say. They promise to ban your right to choose.

We needed to say the truth – that we’re the only ticket that’s stood up for your privacy and right to choose. That’s why we’ve been endorsed by Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates. Les voted to respect the right to choose his whole legislative career. Jessica, a teacher and education leader, wants her five grandchildren to grow up in a world where the government doesn’t make their health decisions.

We also want you to know where we stand on other issues that will provide a better future for this and the next generation. We believe children succeed when they have good schools. Letting school support fall $120 million behind inflation until this year, and trying to cut more than a quarter-billion dollars from the public education budget, as Gov. Mike Dunleavy did his first year in office, isn’t leadership. It’s an attack on the opportunity to succeed.

Les grew up in foster care, and Jessica grew up with adopted parents. We both know from experience that everyone deserves fair and equal opportunity. Parents who struggle deserve a living minimum wage of at least $15 per hr. (It’s currently $10.25 per hr.), and affordable child care so they can work.

We can build Alaska back again by ending $1.2 billion in oil company subsidies Alaska gives to the wealthiest corporations in the world. We should, instead, use our oil wealth to build needed renewable energy, and put people back to work maintaining a $2 billion backlog of ports, roads and infrastructure we need to protect. We can address Alaska’s ignored mental health problems, and build opportunity and fast, affordable internet in rural and urban Alaska.

You deserve a governor who’ll stop making you fight each other over better schools, jobs, public safety, needed renewable energy or a strong Permanent Fund dividend. We can support all those things with a fair share for our oil.

We should work to restore salmon and stop the waste of over 1,000 tons fish by Outside factory trawlers. And we’ll stop the toxic Pebble Mine Dunleavy supports, but that we know endangers the greatest salmon runs in the world.

In August, you get one vote, and we hope you’ll vote for us. In November, you get to rank candidates based on your values, and we’ll rank the Walker-Drygas ticket second.

There’s a lot of work to do. Let’s move Alaska forward again.

Les Gara was a member of the Alaska State House, and was an Assistant Attorney General on the Exxon Valdez oil spill civil prosecution. Jessica Cook is a 20-year teacher and former vice president of Alaska’s statewide and Anchorage’s teachers associations. Les lives in Anchorage and Jessica lives in Palmer.

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