Two-thirds of Alaska’s all-Republican congressional delegation are being challenged by two lifelong Alaskans running as independents.
Both are nominees of the Democratic National Committee, and plan to caucus with Democrats.
Al Gross, a physician and commercial fisherman, aims to defeat Sen. Dan Sullivan. Alyse Galvin is again challenging Rep. Don Young, who has held the position for 47 years.
The incumbents paint Galvin and Gross as deceivers — far-left liberals masquerading as moderate independents. Cronies of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Matt Shuckerow, campaign manager for Sullivan, said Gross is aligned with national Democrats, and the notion of him running under the banner of an independent is a distortion of the truth.
“The idea of independence is something that just doesn’t play true. Al Gross is the Democratic nominee," Shuckerow said. “He has actively run a campaign on flipping the Senate, flipping Alaska blue.”
National polling has shown both races being competitive. In the August primary, Galvin got over 1,000 more votes than Young.
“I’ve never met Nancy Pelosi,” Galvin said in a recent interview. “I am against higher taxes on working Alaskans, and it’s ridiculous to think I’d ever let anyone shut down Alaska. I support ANWR and I’m against the Green New Deal.”
“I’ve been an independent the vast majority of my life,” Gross said in an interview. “I would not consider changing party just to run for office. Some people tried to get me to run as a Democrat, but I’m not a Democrat. And I’m not a Republican. I’m an independent and I’m going to stay that way.”
Both have spent some time as registered Democrats, something Young and Sullivan have used against them in campaign materials.
In 1980, Gross registered as nonpartisan, then changed his affiliation six more times, mostly as nonpartisan, independent or undeclared, until landing again at nonpartisan in 2018. In the ’90s he spent five years as a registered Republican.
State elections records show Gross registered as a Democrat on Feb. 2, 2017, and changed to nonpartisan on Jan. 27, 2018.
Galvin was registered as a Democrat from 1993 to 2005. After changing to undeclared, she briefly re-registered as a Democrat in 2006, then again changed to undeclared, state records show.
In 2016, the Alaska Democratic Party changed its rules to allow candidates not registered as Democrats to seek its nomination. Gross and Galvin both secured that nomination. Both said they would be more aligned with Democrats, but would put Alaskans first, and focus on individual policy rather than party platform.
Many of Gross' ads focus on his Alaska bona fides: He was a commercial fisherman, prospected for gold and killed a grizzly bear that sneaked up on him.
In an August radio spot, the Dan Sullivan campaign used audio from Gross saying he would caucus with the Democrats, and that his best path to election is to run as an independent.
The ad claims Gross will empower national Democrats who support the Green New Deal and Medicare for all. A website run by the Sullivan campaign, dralgrosssenate.com, repeats much of the same.
Gross said he wasn’t familiar with the ad, and didn’t know where the audio recording came from, but he does not support Medicare for all. He does support a public option, which would allow more people to opt into Medicare, but not remove the option of private health insurance.
Gross' version of a public option would expand Medicare to individuals and small businesses, to be purchased at cost, not at the government’s expense.
Gross said Republicans have “failed miserably” at health care reform. He said health care reform is the primary motivation to caucus with Democrats.
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“This will dramatically lower the cost of health insurance because it gets rid of the private health insurance intermediary,” he said. “It would create competition in the marketplace, which would help drive down rates in the private sector as well.”
Shuckerow said if Gross is against Medicare for all, that’s a recent change.
Gross has repeatedly advocated for a single-payer system in op-eds and media interviews. Single-payer is a government-run health care system.
In 2018, Gross tweeted, in part, “I can’t think of a more compelling reason to push forward for a single payer system and a Medicare for all type of health care system.”
“When he tells Alaskans he does not support Medicare for all, his record certainly doesn’t show that," Shuckerow said. "His record is actually very clear and very well documented on that topic.”
Gross has repeatedly stated for years that his version of single-payer would include the option to buy private health insurance.
Gross, like Galvin, supports drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and opposes Pebble Mine. Gross said climate change is a huge issue facing Alaska, but he does not support carbon pricing programs or anything else that will cost Alaskans jobs. He said he is in favor of implementing renewable energy projects whenever possible, as the world is moving away from oil.
“Alaska has a lot of opportunities to do so,” he said. “We can work towards diversifying our economy in the state, which is something that is so badly needed.”
Gross said he is a fiscal conservative who does not support expansion of our immigration system or building a wall on the country’s southern border. He also said he’s a strong supporter of the Second Amendment.
Galvin said she also supports gun rights, and largely doesn’t pay attention to the national Democratic platform.
“I am a moderate independent who looks after making sure we keep an eye on our debt, at the same time pulls people together for reasonable policy that will bring good jobs here to Alaska,” she said.
Galvin said Americans and Alaskans are tired of partisanship, and she plans to try and bridge the aisle if elected. That said, she would caucus with Democrats.
“The Democrats are in the majority,” she said. “I intend to be in the majority.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported an element of an ad from the Sullivan campaign about Gross and the Green New Deal. The ad said Gross would empower Democrats who want to pass the Green New Deal, not that Gross supported the Green New Deal. The story also incorrectly quoted Sullivan campaign manager Matt Shuckerow. He said, speaking of Gross, “When he tells Alaskans he does not support Medicare for all, his record certainly doesn’t show that. His record is actually very clear and very well documented on that topic” and not “When he tells Alaskans he doesn’t support Medicare for all, the record could not be more clear.” An earlier version of a photo caption on this story incorrectly said Gross is a House candidate. He is a Senate candidate.