It’s another uniquely Alaskan election year, and we find ourselves in a three-way race for governor. As a longtime Democrat, I have become more entrenched over the years in my support of candidates who support my values. I was delighted when former Sen. Mark Begich jumped in the race. Begich has a record of supporting the issues I support, and he doesn’t vacillate on them. Gov. Bill Walker is a nice guy who was elected because Democrats supported him as part of a “unity ticket,” as a way to defeat Gov. Sean Parnell.
We defeated Parnell, then changed our primary system to allow independents and others to run on the Democratic ticket. But this year, when Walker was faced with a viable Democratic challenger, instead of doing the right thing and running head-to-head with Begich, Walker abandoned the party that got him elected, and created a three-way race.
Walker may have changed from a Republican to an independent to become governor, but his conservative ideology hasn’t changed. According to a July 12 article in the Midnight Sun, Walker tweeted: “I am pro-life, Byron [Mallott] is pro-choice. Our team is built around the idea that leaders with diverging personal beliefs can come together to do what’s right for Alaska.”
But Walker is the governor, and we need a governor who is foursquare in support of a woman’s right to choose. Our country is facing an unprecedented attack on reproductive rights with Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy.
In a recent case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Kavanaugh dissented on a decision that allowed an undocumented teenager held in custody in Texas, to obtain an abortion. Expectations are that Kavanaugh will support overturning Roe v. Wade, giving the U.S. Supreme Court the 5-4 vote necessary to do so.
The Alaska Constitution currently supports a woman’s right to choose, but if Roe is overturned, decisions on reproductive rights will be decided by the states. If Alaska has a governor who does not support a woman’s right to choose, and if Democrats do not retain control of at least one house of the legislature, we will see an onslaught of legislation that will further limit or change our constitution in order to ban abortions in Alaska.
During his election bid in 2014, Walker said that although he respects all people, his Christian beliefs are that marriage is between a man and a woman. He said he supports traditional marriage, but he will follow the law in place regarding same sex marriage.
In September, 2016, Walker allowed then-Attorney General Craig Richards to join the state of Louisiana and other conservative states, in a friend-of-the court brief supporting same-sex marriage bans. According to a statement emailed to the Anchorage Daily News, Walker said: “Had it been solely my decision to join the amicus brief, I would have declined the invitation. However, I fully respect the role of the attorney general on matters defending Alaska’s constitution.” The thing is, Walker is the boss. Unlike some states, Alaska’s attorney general is not elected, but works at the pleasure of the governor. There is no way a strong governor would allow an attorney general to file such a brief unless he agreed with it.
With an extremist U.S. Supreme Court, it is not implausible that the court will overturn marriage equality laws and legislation that guarantees LGBTQ rights.
We need a strong governor who will fight attempts by a conservative legislature’s attempt to take Alaska back to pre-Obergefell and Windsor days. Mark Begich has a clear record of supporting civil rights for LGBTQs.
Begich also has a plan to constitutionally protect the Permanent Fund Dividend, to guarantee a sustainable dividend, protect the health of the corpus of the fund, and secure long-term educational funding. Walker slashed the PFD that so many Alaskans depend on to meet the high cost of living here.
In the dire political climate we find ourselves in we need a tough, experienced governor who will protect and defend our rights. That candidate is Begich.
• Kimberly Metcalfe is former chair of the Juneau (now Tongass) Democrats, former Democratic National Committeewoman, and a retired union business agent. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.