Paulette Simpson: Hoping to come through in the clutch



I’ve voted in Alaska since 1978.  Election 2020 arrives amid a historic and life-altering pandemic.  Schools are closed and thousands have lost jobs. It’s tough to maintain equilibrium during turbulent times.  

There are also ways to make things worse on Election Day, beginning with the ballot measures.

Significant changes to oil taxes and election law are best duked out in the legislative arena.  

Ballot Measure 1 would change Alaska’s oil tax policy for the eighth time in 14 years. That’s banana republic.  Investment requires a stable business environment.  Just say NO on Ballot Measure 1.

It takes 25 pages of fine print in the Official Election Pamphlet to describe Ballot Measure 2. It’s a confusing cluster of high-minded ideas that would merge our two primary election ballots into one with candidates from all parties competing against each other. For the general election, we’d be forced into the radical “ranked-choice” method of choosing the winner from the top four that survive the free-for-all Primary. 

Ballot Measure 2 did not bubble up from our local Assemblies or community councils. These days, to ditch the deliberative process and avoid public hearings, Outside interests simply buy their way onto the ballot. 

Political parties are easy targets for the chaos-loving sponsors of Ballot Measure 2. I maintain that even with their warts, political parties foster engagement and commitment to ideals. Both of Alaska’s major parties recommend voting NO on Ballot Measure 2.

Statewide races:

Alaska has one of the most effective and collaborative congressional delegations of any state in the country. The most storied coaches in history could not have fielded a finer team for our tiny state. 

Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan and Don Young align with the Republican Party, but they do not share a political mindset. Depending on the issue, each occupies a different place on the political spectrum, and each brings different strengths, life experiences, and personalities to the team.  Murkowski appeals to many center-left moderates, while Sullivan satisfies those more inclined to center-right and with ties to the military, regardless of party.  

Don Young has always been an enigma. He has earned union backing and the loyalty and affection of Alaska Natives, going back to his days in Fort Yukon and 46-year marriage to his Athapaskan wife. Yes, Don is an “old white guy”, but he’s not sidelined in a bullpen (or basement).  

No one lives forever. We all get that, and Don does too.  But Don’s still on his game. To retire him now and send in a free agent rookie instead would be a major unforced error.

Speaking of rookies. What is going on with Alaska Democrats? Not that long ago, Democrats nominated serious and substantively experienced players like Tony Knowles and Fran Ulmer. Fran had served as Juneau mayor, in the State House and as lt. governor before running against Frank Murkowski for governor. An accomplished politician and proud Democrat, Fran was well-known, well-liked and genuinely committed to Alaska.  

Democrats are favored to win nationally this year, yet Alaska Democrats continue to actively hide from their party’s brand, preferring to field and fund fake “independents” for state legislative races. They also nominated so-called “independents” for our sole congressional seat and the U.S. Senate seat held by Dan Sullivan. 

Never having played in a political league at any level, these two rookies don’t even qualify as back-benchers. Most people in his hometown of Juneau did not know who “Dr. Al” was until big money from Outside created the bear slayer and fisherman persona to market to Alaskans. 

We’ve had enough upheaval this year.  

When something really bad happens suddenly – you lose a job or partner or a pandemic strikes – it’s best to stay calm and not do anything rash. Don’t sell the house and move to Mexico or convert your IRA to bitcoin.

We’re in the clutch. Reject both ballot measures as disruptive end-runs around the legislative process and keep our D.C. dream team together for another season.  

Paulette Simpson writes from Douglas, Alaska.