Alaska is fortunate to have so many folks willing to spend the time, effort, and money to run in the special election for Alaska’s Congressional seat opened by the untimely death of Don Young. Among Don’s special qualities were his accessibility and approachability for Alaskans with an idea intended to benefit Alaska. Forsaking the team-warrior approach taken by so many in Congress today, Don worked with anyone in Congress or the Federal executive branch who could help him help Alaska. Those are qualities and the spirit it would be important to have in our next representative.
As we sift through those running there are celebrities and folks who have done a good job of putting their names forward. Unfortunately, these candidates have no legislative experience and no legislative record. So, we have no actual idea of how they will represent Alaska in Congress other than what they tell us. What they tell us does not have the benefit of exposure to the pressures of the legislative process. So, who knows whether these folks will be brilliant, an embarrassment, or team-warriors who are good at producing sound bites, but not getting things done for Alaska? Having no legislative record in this race provides the advantage of not having upset Alaskans with a bad idea.
There are five exceptions to this lack of legislative experience and a track record – Democrats Mary Peltola of Bethel, Adam Wool of Fairbanks, Nonpartisan Andrew Halcro of Anchorage, and Republicans Josh Revak of Anchorage, and John Coghill of Fairbanks.
The candidate with the most legislative experience – 22 years of it – is John Coghill. John was born in Alaska and raised in a family that has made major contributions to the State. His father, Jack Coghill, was a delegate to the 1955 Alaska Constitutional Convention, also a State Senator, and Lieutenant Governor. As such John is steeped in the tradition of the Statehood Compact that guarantees Alaska the right to develop its natural resources.
John has the most legislative experience of the candidates. He got important legislation done for the State on a wide variety of issues such as a proposal to repeal the federal estate and gift tax, resolution asserting the sovereignty of Alaska in treaty negotiations with Russia and again with Canada in determining maritime
boundaries, resolution to Congress to extend the period for allotment applications by Alaska Native Vietnam veterans, amendments to the Alaska Municipal Boundary Commission, and many others – 79 in all.
His leadership on the Citizens’ Advisory Commission on Federal Areas (CAFCA) is very relevant to the legislative work for Alaska he would be doing in Congress. CAFCA was established by the Alaska Legislature in 1981 to provide Alaskans a platform to address issues raised by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). CAFCA’s charge was to “consider, research and hold hearings on the consistency with federal law and congressional intent on management, operation, planning, development, and addition to federal management areas in the state.”
Importantly, John is likeable and has a demonstrated ability to work with fellow legislators. At the Republican Party’s Congressional debate the others named him as the person they would support if they weren’t running.
Since John Coghill is running, please join me in voting for John Coghill.
• Jim Clark is a natural resources attorney in Juneau.