The most important issue of this election cycle for me is the issue of the government forcing women of childbearing age to carry a child, whether that child is the result of rape, incest, or an unviable fetus that could endanger the life of the mother. There are many other things that matter to me, but the Republican Party’s all-out attack on women must be stopped at the ballot box. We have an opportunity to elect a candidate for governor who cares about women’s rights, and as Republicans increasingly push for states to decide these issues, it’s increasingly important we choose the right candidate.
Les Gara is the only truly pro-choice candidate in the race. He and his running mate, Jessica Cook, are the only gubernatorial candidates who have been endorsed by the Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates. Les has made reproductive choice one of the main issues of his campaign.
Former Governor Bill Walker is a good second choice when ranking candidates, and I will rank him number two, but with hesitation. Governor Walker has stated that he is personally pro-life and will put his views aside if elected. He promised the same thing when he ran for governor in 2013 and despite his promise, he allowed his attorney general to appeal a court case in 2016 that restricted Medicaid funding for low-income women. The Alaska Supreme Court eventually affirmed the Superior Court ruling that found the case violated the equal protection clause of the Alaska Constitution.
Other reasons I’m ranking Les Gara #1 are:
— Les supports a return to a defined benefit state pension system. As a retired union representative for public employees, I witnessed the results of then-Governor Frank Murkowski’s successful effort to destroy Alaska’s pension system. Tier IV employees have a 401(k) type of retirement that they can cash out when they leave, and there is no incentive for anyone to make a career in state government. As unions warned during the push to destroy the system, people will get a job in Alaska to get experience as a teacher, a biologist, a policeman or other profession, then use that experience to land a job in a state that has a defined benefit system. The lack of a pension has added to the outflow of workers from the state and has made it increasingly difficult to hire and retain qualified employees.
— Les understands the importance of the Alaska Marine Highway System to Southeast Alaska as well as the rest of Alaska’s far flung coastal communities. He will work to restore funding to the system. Governor Dunleavy decimated our state ferry system by underfunding it, selling ships for pennies on the dollar, and creating havoc by reducing ferry schedules so that some communities are lucky to see ferry service at all during the winter months. We depend on the ferries for everything from high school basketball tournaments to transporting groceries and building supplies. A vote for Les Gara is a vote for restored ferry service.
— Les Gara is also a proponent of sensible funding for education at all levels, from pre-K to the university level. His running mate, Jessica Cook, is a teacher with over 20 years of experience teaching in Alaska schools. I compare Les and Jess’s support for education with the total lack of support shown by Governor Dunleavy. Do you remember when he hired the notorious budget axe wielding Donna Arduin as his director of the Office of Budget & Management? I do. I remember the sick feeling I had when Dunleavy and Arduin proposed a $130 million cut to the University of Alaska system, and millions of dollars worth of cuts to other important programs like school bonds and rural school construction.
Alaska must return to sensible governing and elect someone who truly cares about the future of our state. Les Gara and Jessica Cook want Alaskans to succeed. Together Les and Jess make a great team for the offices of governor and lieutenant governor. I hope you’ll join me in ranking them #1 and Walker/Drygass #2. We cannot endure another four years of total mismanagement by Dunleavy.
• Kimberly Metcalfe is a retired union business agent and active member of the Tongass Democrats.