Margaret Stock arrived at the Division of Elections in Anchorage at 10 a.m. Friday with a thick stack of papers containing, she said, twice the number of signatures required to get on the November ballot as an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate.
Stock said she collected the roughly 5,700 signatures across the state, hitting the Golden Days festival in Fairbanks and campaigning near her cabin in McCarthy on the Fourth of July. She gathered signatures in Haines, Soldotna, Homer and Ketchikan, among other places, and plans to visit more supporters in Barrow and across the state soon. Some people stopped in at her law firm in Anchorage to sign the petition, Stock said.
To get on the general election ballot as an independent — a process that bypasses the primary system — the state requires 2,854 signatures from registered Alaska voters.
Stock's central campaign theme has been focused on her "independent" status — that she's not beholden to the Republican or the Democratic party. She said that, if elected, she would caucus with whichever party was offering the best options for Alaska, but wouldn't specify the qualifications for that. Her hope is that enough independent senators could be elected nationwide — five or so — to create a separate caucus that could sway the Senate.
The current Senate includes 54 Republicans, in the majority; 44 Democrats, and two independents. Both independents — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Maine Sen. Angus King — caucus with the Democrats.
The last time the U.S. Senate had more than two members who were not Democrats or Republicans was in the 75th and 76th Congresses, from 1937 to 1941. During those Democrat-heavy years, there were two senators from the Farmer-Labor Party, one Progressive and one Independent, according to the Senate.
The "two parties are at each other's throats" and Congress is dysfunctional, Stock said Friday. She argues that her party-free message will appeal to Alaskans dissatisfied with Washington.
Stock's campaign has about $110,000 on hand, after raising $500,000. She said that's enough to make her competitive in Alaska. It is not, however, anywhere near the $3.5 million that incumbent Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski has brought in since the start of 2015. Murkowski had $2.5 million on hand at the end of July, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Stock said she's banking a bit on getting viral attention for her popular online campaign ad, wherein she ends a game of red-versus-blue tug of war with a chainsaw. Stock said the chainsaw is hers — a bit of a family joke from the year her husband forgot her birthday but happened to show up at the house with a new chainsaw. (Now "he's got an app that tells him" that her birthday is coming, Stock said.)
Stock said she has not yet decided whom she will vote for in the presidential election — only that it will not be Republican Donald Trump. Stock said that Trump's character, judgment and temperament have proved him unfit for the position of leading the nation and its troops. She's holding off making her final decision as the election evolves, hopeful, she said, that a new, independent candidate will emerge and grab her vote.