Politics

Gross changes stance, says he will caucus with Democrats if elected to U.S. House

U.S. House candidate Al Gross, one of 48 running in a special election, has changed his position on who he will caucus with if elected to Congress, following criticism from the Alaska Democratic Party.

“When I get to Washington I will caucus with the Democrats,” Gross said in a campaign email on Tuesday, a day after the Alaska Democratic Party said in a social media post that Gross is “not liberal” and “not a Democrat.” Gross previously told the Anchorage Daily News he would decide which caucus to join only after the election.

Gross, who got the Democratic Party endorsement during his expensive 2020 U.S. Senate run against Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan, is touting himself as an independent candidate this year and has tried to put distance between himself and the Democratic Party.

Gross lost to Sullivan by more than 12 points in 2020. Gross entered the special election to replace U.S. Rep. Don Young after his unexpected death, and said he is not seeking an endorsement from the Democratic Party.

“Al Gross still has the audacity to beg for your money after saying he’d caucus with Republicans,” the Alaska Democratic Party wrote in a Facebook post Monday.

[More coverage of the 2022 Alaska congressional elections]

Gross campaign spokesperson Blake McGill attributed the change to a leaked Supreme Court opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade, a landmark decision that secured abortion access across the country in 1973. The opinion was leaked to Politico more than a week ago.

“This is a highly fluid and unprecedented election in so many ways, and just in the last week we have learned that the Supreme Court is planning to overturn Roe v. Wade. This threat to personal freedom and liberty is gravely concerning to Al, and it has made it abundantly clear for him that he can best represent the interests of Alaska by caucusing with the Democrats and working to codify a woman’s right to choose into law,” McGill said in a statement. “As a political independent, Al will never be beholden to partisan politics and will vote for policies that benefit Alaska regardless of which party supports them, and this decision does not change that commitment.”

In an interview with the Anchorage Daily News on April 29, Gross declined to commit to caucusing with either party, and changed his answer on who he would caucus with midway through the interview.

“When I’m elected, I’ll caucus with the majority caucus, at least for the first two years, because I think that’s in the best interest of Alaska. After two years, I’ll caucus with whoever best represents the values of Alaskans,” he first said.

Democrats currently hold a majority in the U.S. House. That could change after the midterm elections in November, when Republicans are hoping to flip House control.

But Gross said later in the interview that he would make a decision on who to caucus with after the election, “based on how I can best represent the values of Alaskans, and how I can best get work done for Alaskans.”

In the campaign email from Gross telling voters he would caucus with Democrats, he said “there has been some fake news from establishment political parties trying to make voters believe otherwise.”

The Alaska Democratic Party called Gross a “proven loser” in the Facebook post on Monday.

The post points out that Gross finished fourth of five candidates last year in a race for the hospital board in Petersburg, where he lived for many years. Responding to that loss, he said it was because he had not lived in Petersburg long enough to establish the needed community connections to win a seat.

Alaska Democratic Party executive director Lindsay Kavanaugh said Tuesday that Gross’ earlier statements indicate “he didn’t know who he was going to caucus with.”

“I prefer that he caucus with the Democrats so I think there’s value in what we did because we now have a commitment from him,” Kavanaugh said.

Kavanaugh added that she is “disappointed that he appears to be blaming the party that supported him and put money and staff time and energy in his campaign” for his loss in 2020.

The Alaska Democratic Party is not endorsing any of the 48 candidates running in the special U.S. House race, where the top four vote-getters in a June 11 primary will advance to an August general election.

Instead, the party has asked voters to cast their ballot for any one of the six registered Democrats in the race, which include Anchorage Assembly member Chris Constant, former state lawmaker Mary Peltola, Alaska Native leader Emil Notti, Fairbanks state Rep. Adam Wool, former Kodiak Island Borough Assemblyman Mike Milligan and Ernest Thomas.

Constant, Peltola, Notti and Wool have all made public statements indicating they support continued access to abortion care.

Iris Samuels

Iris Samuels is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News focusing on state politics. She previously covered Montana for The Associated Press and wrote for the Kodiak Daily Mirror.

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