Activist to run for governor

Desa Jacobsson seeks Green Party nomination

Posted: Monday, February 18, 2002

Native activist Desa Jacobsson has announced her second campaign for governor.

Jacobsson, a former Juneau resident now living in Anchorage, said today that she will seek the endorsement of the Green Party of Alaska at its convention next month in Anchorage.

She was the party's candidate in the 1998 gubernatorial election, winning just over 3 percent of the vote, which kept the Greens certified as a major party.

Jacobsson launched her new campaign in a spirit of outrage.

She was among those demonstrating in Anchorage on Saturday over the Alaska Native Heritage Center's postponement of a celebration of Native civil rights leader Elizabeth Peratrovich. The center rescheduled the event for Sunday in order to accommodate a Republican fund-raiser featuring President Bush and gubernatorial candidate Frank Murkowski, Alaska's junior U.S. senator.

The willingness of Republicans to step on Elizabeth Peratrovich Day "speaks volumes on how the Republican party thinks of the Alaska Native community," Jacobsson said in an interview this morning.

Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich couldn't be reached for comment.

Jacobsson said the same attitude was reflected in a recent state appropriation to promote drilling for oil on the arctic coastal plain. "I find it interesting that again when we have such a financial crisis the Republican Legislature finds another $1 million to fight the Gwich'in on ANWR. There's plenty of money to fight on Native issues."

Not that Democrats are any better for the state's indigenous people, Jacobsson emphasized: Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles signed the ANWR bill into law.

"You cannot tell a Democrat from a Republican anymore," she said.

And Jacobsson said Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, a Democratic candidate for governor, still must answer for supporting "another piece of legislative racism" in 1992, when she was a member of the House. The bill, on nonsubsistence use areas, was intended "to destroy the culture of Native people," Jacobsson said.

Ulmer, responding to similar criticism last year, wrote: "It was far from perfect, but it allowed the state to implement the state subsistence priority. ... But I believed then as I believe today that a constitutional amendment is the long-term answer."

Jacobsson, who has gone on hunger strikes to make a point, has been a passionate advocate on the issue of subsistence.

In 1999, she was among five Native women who intentionally broke the law by catching sockeye salmon near the Mendenhall Glacier without a personal-use permit. It was a demonstration to protest limits on customary and traditional subsistence uses by Natives. A trial resulted in a fine of $25 per person.

Ten years earlier, she was arrested for subsistence fishing in violation of the existing regulations.

Jacobsson rejects the idea that hers is merely a message candidacy. Asked her goal, she said: "To be governor. I'm not in this just for a dimpled chad."

There are 4,832 registered Green Party members in Alaska, according to the Division of Elections Web site. That's dwarfed by Democrats, 74,504, and Republicans, 116,571, not to mention the 234,629 officially unaffiliated voters who make up half of the electorate.

Jacobsson acknowledges that she needs to pull votes from all over the political spectrum but doesn't say how she'll do it.

Two longtime political observers said they don't think Jacobsson will be a spoiler for Ulmer.

"It just whittles away on Fran Ulmer's vote, but just marginally," said Gerald McBeath, political science professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. "She's certainly not going to take votes from Frank."

Some Democrats blamed Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader for costing Al Gore the 2000 election, but in Alaska the party isn't capitalizing on its showing in the last election cycle, said Anchorage pollster Dave Dittman, who thinks the Ulmer-Murkowski race might be close. Strident rhetoric on ANWR, coupled with local issues like opposition to new ballparks for the Little League in Anchorage, have marginalized the Greens, he said.

On the state's fiscal gap, Jacobsson stops short of laying out a whole plan. She favors a cruise ship head tax, a seasonal sales tax to capture money from nonresident workers and a $100 annual tax on employees, measures that fall well short of plugging the $1 billion deficit forecast for 2004.

"I think we're all going to have to cooperate," she said.

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