Les Gara, who represented Anchorage in the Alaska House of Representatives from 2003-2018, is running as a Democrat to unseat Gov. Mike Dunleavy in the 2022 general election. He told the Empire in an interview he wanted to ensure oppportunities were available in Alaska in the future. (Courtesy photo / Les Gara)

Les Gara, who represented Anchorage in the Alaska House of Representatives from 2003-2018, is running as a Democrat to unseat Gov. Mike Dunleavy in the 2022 general election. He told the Empire in an interview he wanted to ensure oppportunities were available in Alaska in the future. (Courtesy photo / Les Gara)

Opinion: Les Gara should be your No.1 choice under the new voting system. Here’s why

I have watched him beat down barriers few people could overcome.

  • Thursday, September 30, 2021 12:00pm
  • Opinion

By Karen Compton

As someone who’s volunteered on campaigns I believe in, I know what makes a strong candidate. Les Gara is that person for the 2022 governor’s race. While we’ve all fretted in the past about races where multiple candidates we can support might “split the vote” and help the candidate we like least, that’s no longer a concern under the new ranked choice voting law passed by voters in 2020.

I’ll get to that later.

First a few words about Gara, whom I know well and admire. I have watched him beat down barriers few people could overcome. When Les was 6 years old, his father was killed and he had to survive a childhood in foster care. He worked his way through school, college and eventually graduated from Harvard Law School with honors. As a legislator, Gara became a tireless advocate for others.

Whether it’s a good job, college, job training, support for abused children, or respect for your elders that you want, Gara has been there for you. He knows many Alaskans grew up with hardship, and maybe because of his own experience, has always battled for the things that give people a fair chance to succeed in life. That’s his core value.

He’s been this state’s biggest champion in the Legislature for abused and neglected foster youth, and earned both local and national recognition for that work. He thinks you deserve the right to job training or college even if you can’t afford it, and fought for scholarship aid so money isn’t a barrier to anyone’s success. Our current Governor has tried to rip down the things that help people move forward. Les has always worked to build them up.

Politics is a game where people get labeled. You can’t label Gara. He’s a fisherman, knows the Pebble Mine is a toxic nightmare that endangers the world’s greatest salmon runs, but also supports the good jobs that come with responsible resource development. He’s supported renewable energy to help fight climate change, and a vibrant Marine Highway that residents and businesses deserve.

I get that the wealthiest oil executives want us to give away our oil for nothing, and they have the current governor on their side to do their bidding against the rest of us. That’s their job. Gara knows his job is to represent the rest of us. He knows if we don’t get a fair share for our oil we’ll never balance our budget, and won’t ever be able to fund schools, renewable energy, road maintenance, a strong University, the PFD, or anything that helps people move ahead in the world.

Finally, a few words about the new ranked choice voting system.

It says the top four candidates in the August election, regardless of party, move on to the November election. We can now rank our first- and second-choice candidates. If you like two candidates, you rank them in the order you want. The fourth-place candidate gets disqualified first, and the second-choice votes for that candidate then get distributed among the remaining three candidates. If no one passes the 50% mark with those votes, then the third-place candidate is disqualified, and the second choice of that candidate’s voters get distributed.

While I didn’t vote for this change, it does allow you to vote for your favorite candidate, and your second favorite candidate without hurting either of them. Your votes aren’t split anymore, they get shared. So you can vote your conscience and build back our state with a new governor. Join me in supporting Les Gara in 2022.

• Karen Compton has worked on a number of campaigns in Alaska, volunteered and fundraised for the ski jumping program, and raised two sons in Anchorage with her husband Steve. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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