The Anchorage Daily News asked Alaska candidates for U.S. Congress to answer a series of issue questions. Read more here.
Alyse Galvin | Nonpartisan, Democratic nominee | Occupation: I am currently working full-time on my campaign. | Age: 55 | Residence: Anchorage | Relevant experience or prior offices held: The first in my family to graduate from college, I went on to become a small business owner, mom of four, manager at a large hotel, and fierce advocate for public education. After working in small businesses, the hospitality industry, and in education policy, I built a grassroots movement of parents, teachers, students, and community leaders in response to legislative cuts to Alaskan public schools. Under my leadership, Great Alaska Schools grew from 40 to 4,000 members. | www.alyse4alaska.com
Why are you running for office?
I’m running for Congress to get Alaskans back to work and be the next voice for the people of Alaska. Those representing us in Washington, D.C. need to represent our values and deliver for Alaskans. After terming out of his committee chairmanships and being stripped of his leadership roles, my opponent can no longer do that. In 2018, I ran for Congress after a lifetime of public advocacy. This included four years growing the grassroots group Great Alaska Schools from 40 to 4,000 members and advocating in Juneau and Washington, D.C. for kids. I brought Republicans, Democrats, and Independents together in a bipartisan way to save schools from over $200M in funding cuts. I know how to get things done in a legislative body. Alaska needs an energetic advocate who will deliver jobs, better healthcare, and a stronger education system. I am running for Congress to be that champion for Alaska.
Name two big problems or challenges currently facing Alaska and how you plan to address them if elected.
We need to get Alaskans back to work, and that means providing the means to knock down the COVID-19 pandemic to create more certainty in the economy. I’m running to make sure that Alaskans can take care of their own. Rebuilding our economy, shoring up our healthcare system, and supporting a strong education system are the signal goals. The federal government has failed to provide the resources needed to combat the pandemic, and that must change. We must bring about a post-pandemic economic renewal. To do so I will fight for investment in Alaskan infrastructure (roads, ports, bridges, and high speed broadband). It is still possible to roll up our sleeves and bring people from both sides of the aisle together to work for common goals. I will bring this commonsense approach to Washington.
Do you think the federal government has effectively dealt with the coronavirus pandemic as a public-health issue? What specifically should have been done differently?
The federal government’s response to the pandemic has been woefully inconsistent and inadequate. Leaders must bring people together, listen to experts, take responsibility, and ensure knowledge and supplies are in the right places to solve this crisis. The President should have immediately declared a national emergency and deployed the public and private sectors to focus on producing millions of rapid testing kits and personal protective equipment. We should never have been in a situation where people were discouraged from using masks due to a fear of a shortfall. A singular source of pandemic information, from public health experts, should have been established and their recommendations followed, free of political influence. Our state Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Zink has done a great job planning and disseminating information but the federal government did not deliver the timely tools and information Alaska needs. I’m disappointed in the lack of leadership on the federal level.
What should the federal government be doing to repair economic damage related to the pandemic?
Congress needs to quickly get funds to our suffering communities and small businesses so that they can make it through these difficult times, keep up with payroll, and keep Alaskans employed. In this unprecedented emergency, people also need direct help to put food on the table and pay their rent. Here in Alaska, we’ve had experience with the PFD showing how valuable direct payments can be to our economy. We also need to get folks back to work and that’s going to take investment in the basics: infrastructure, research and development, and education. We must invest in our infrastructure like ports, roads, bridges, air, and rail, as well as rural broadband and energy access. These investments pay off - they will save lives and they will boost the economy for years to come.
What will you do to address high health-care costs (and access to quality care) for Alaskans?
Alaska has the highest healthcare costs in the nation. Our economy will remain vulnerable, small businesses will be squeezed, and our people will suffer unless we make our system more efficient and effective. First, I support responsible action to bring stability and quickly lower costs. We can lower prescription drug costs by allowing consumers to buy in other safe countries, and empower Medicare to negotiate lower prices. We can open health care exchanges across state lines to team up with other small-population states to expand our coverage pool, which lowers costs. We must expand Medicare reimbursement rates in Alaska to make it possible to find doctors who accept Medicare. After this, we need systemic changes so everyone has quality, comprehensive healthcare without having to worry that an illness will bankrupt their family or that providing insurance to employees will price them out of business.
What should be done, if anything, to change federal immigration policies?
We must work toward comprehensive immigration reform that modernizes our system and gives more certainty, safety, and dignity to all. Alaska is one of the most diverse states in the country and is an example of how important immigrants, asylees, and refugees are to the social and economic fabric of this country. We need to create an immigration system that prioritizes public safety, supports legal immigration channels, and prevents discrimination. Dangerous criminals should be the focus, not children and families. It is important for policy makers to listen to experts in the field. I’m especially concerned about our current administration’s actions that have separated children from their parents at our nation’s southern border. Children should never be treated as pawns and it is inhumane to use family separation as a negotiating ploy to secure Trump’s border wall. As our Representative, I will fight these unjust immigration policies.
Describe your vision for Alaska.
I am a third-generation Alaskan, and I deeply love this state. My vision is an Alaska that has the good paying jobs and quality of life that will allow all children to raise their families here. God has blessed us with valuable resources, and given us the talent to develop those resources responsibly to sustain ourselves and future generations. I am grateful to the old-timers who built this State and have given us such an exciting opportunity, but we must now innovate to steer us toward the Alaska of the future, not the past. We need someone in Washington DC telling our story, working hard and delivering the federal resources that we need. I recognize that we are facing unprecedented challenges today and achieving this vision will not be easy. I have the energy and the tenacity to fight for Alaska and its people, and deliver.
What is the role of the federal government to reduce high rates of sexual assault and domestic violence in Alaska?
Alaska has the highest rates of gender-based violence and sexual abuse in the country. I will work to fully reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, and to fully fund programs and shelters that have not been prioritized by our current Representative. Alaska Native women are at 10 times greater risk of sexual and domestic violence than non-Native women. In Congress, I will do everything I can to stem this tide so that Alaska Native voices are heard and respected and Native community organizations are adequately funded.
In addition, more than 70 Alaska communities — places with some of the highest rates of sexual assault in the U.S. — have no local police protection. The federal government can support Alaska as we work to improve law enforcement in our communities. I support federal community policing grants that help cities and villages hire officers who can not only respond to crime as it happens but prevent crime with strong youth mentoring and local partnerships.
What do you think is the United States' role in the world?
The United States has the opportunity and the obligation to provide leadership and to provide a voice for peace and stability in the world. Here in Alaska, we have the longest coastline in the US, facing Russia and North Korea. We are the American Arctic, at a time when international competition for control of the Arctic is growing. Alaska and its servicemen and servicewomen do not have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines. We need to have a measured and thoughtful policy to protect national security, not an impulsive and unpredictable one. We need to return to a role as a positive and stabilizing global strength and presence, but we must always have a clear purpose and compelling national interest before deploying force. America had made great progress internationally in working toward nuclear non-proliferation, climate protection (which is a national security issue), and forging relationships with our allies. We need to get back to this work.
How would you describe President Trump’s term in office?
Unfortunately, President Trump’s presidency has been incredibly divisive for our country. His instincts move him to sow discord in our nation and, despite my prayers for him to find his way, he has failed in the most basic presidential job of leading, protecting, and unifying Americans, especially in times of national threat or crisis. As an Independent, it is his constant partisanship that has disappointed me the most. Being a businessman I expected a much more organized and consistent national response to the current pandemic, and truly don’t understand why it has been so woefully mismanaged and inadequate. He has refused to listen to the advice of science-backed experts in his administration. In Congress, I will work honorably and respectfully with our president, to make America a better place, with a stronger economy for all.
How important of a priority to you is reducing the federal deficit? Explain.
Long-term structural change in the federal budget to reduce the federal deficit is a key priority for me. In this time of crisis, the deficit will naturally increase temporarily. The increase in the deficit in the years just prior to COVID-19 was inexcusable. Our national debt is soaring at over $24 trillion. In the short term, climbing out of this healthcare pandemic and economic crisis is the top challenge, and additional debt is necessary. However, we must restructure the federal budget by implementing common-sense reforms. Projected future deficits have exploded under the current administration. I support closing loopholes that allow hiding corporate profits in foreign countries and tax giveaways to millionaires. I support bipartisan solutions to narrowing our deficit by passing true tax reform and looking for opportunities to reduce costs. One example is using the federal government’s purchasing power to save billions on federal prescription drug costs.
What should Congress and the federal government do to deal with climate change, specifically its impacts in Alaska?
Alaska is ground zero for negative effects of climate change and yet our representative in Congress is a climate change denier. I will take common sense, durable steps addressing climate change. We need legislative solutions for all the stakeholders in our resource and culture-rich state that grow our economy, including funding for research and clean, affordable energy for communities.
Alaska should lead the country in developing climate technology, adapting to climate change and researching its effects. We should be developing these technologies ourselves rather than waiting for the world to sell them to us later. Until recently we were a world leader in climate change research, but we need the leadership to acknowledge and support it. Federal funds are needed to relocate threatened villages and for research and development into engineering to respond to melting permafrost and coastal erosion.
What’s your position on the proposed Pebble mine?
I support mining and natural resource development in Alaska, especially in regions where unemployment plagues the community. However, I am opposed to the Pebble Mine project. It is the wrong mine in the wrong location. It represents too big a risk to Bristol Bay, which is not only a priceless natural treasure but an important piece of Alaska’s economy as the greatest salmon fishery in the world. It has not been demonstrated that current technology can overcome the threat to Bristol Bay posed by this project.
What other important issue would you like to discuss with voters?
I am running as an Independent to put partisan bickering aside and work on real solutions as a public servant. This independent stance is true of most Alaskans, who put our state before party identification. I will work to grow trust in our democracy by bringing civility, honesty, and accountability to DC. These are the values I learned here in Alaska and will represent for Alaskans. We cannot afford a dysfunctional government that cannot work together - the issues we face are too great. It is time for leaders to deliver solutions to the challenges we face, and I am ready to do that work.
Closely aligned with this issue is the problem of special interest money in politics. Special interests and corporations have taken over this country. Enacting campaign finance reform is critical to electing the people needed in Congress to support education, protect the environment, create jobs with real wage growth, and provide quality health care. Let’s bring our government back to the people!
Alaksa Public Media interview: