In the final week of this election season, Alaska has once again become ground zero for virtually untraceable campaign spending and nasty attack ads designed to influence our votes. If you’re anything like me, you’re in awe of the piles of political mailers in your mailbox. I don’t mean the good kind of awe. Who are these dark-money funders pouring money into Alaska and why is the bulk of the funding coming from those who don’t even live here? Dark money is any campaign money that can’t be traced back to its original source. And yes, that’s legal in Alaska today. But we’re trying to make sure it’s not in the future through Ballot Measure 2.
All election advertising requires a disclaimer identifying the group running the ad but because of a loophole in Alaska election law – these outside interest groups will not be required to report who is actually financing their advertising until after the election is over. That’s not how it should work. And that’s not fair to the voters who are doing their best to be informed. Being fully informed today is, in essence, impossible when it comes to campaign finance.
Alaska’s electoral system doesn’t work for the health, well-being, and security of all Alaskans. Instead, it enables candidates who are adept at waging hyper-partisan battles for power, undercutting those who seek practical and bold solutions to our most pressing problems. The predictable and tragic result is grandstanding and gridlock in Juneau. As a lifelong Alaskan, I know we can do better. And as a new mother to a ten-month-old growing up here, I ask us to imagine our future, together. What do we expect from our legislature and policymakers? What do we believe Alaska must do to recover from this pandemic, but in the long-term, what do we believe we are capable of when achieving at our best? And what does that look like? It’s time we pause to ask ourselves that question.
My father, James Kallander, moved to Alaska as a young man. He built up his own business in fisheries and spot piloting to support our family, mine and my sister’s college studies, numerous crewmen on payroll, and more. He was a proud fiscal conservative and a registered Republican. But he also gave money regularly to Planned Parenthood and crisis intervention and family resource centers. He knew that politics and life and supporting one another isn’t black and white or right vs left. He lived his life in accordance to his values as a Cordovan, a fisherman, the son of a hard-working single mother, a Mayor, a father, and a deeply devoted friend to his community and Alaskans.
My father passed away here in Alaska after battling cancer in 2014. But I can say without hesitation that he believed in Alaska’s future. I was raised to believe in his vision of Alaska. The Alaska that banded together in hard times, to lift all boats, to think big and dream bigger. Despite the incredibly challenging season we’re in with COVID, in addition to the attack ads and dreaded gridlock – that dreamers’ spirit is still here and in us, my friends. But to dream and achieve at that level, we must rebuild confidence in our vision and empower our leaders to boldly take steps towards achieving that vision. Another five years of stalled budget processes, infighting, and slandering one side vs the other will continue to set us back. That’s not the Alaska I know and love. That’s not an Alaska that can sustainably function as a place for entrepreneurs, strong businesses, healthy communities, or progress. That’s not an Alaska that will appeal to my son as he is raised to have strong opinions, big ideas, and creative ambitions.
Let’s imagine our future, Alaska. Really take a hard look at it. Ask yourself where you think we’re headed if we stay on the same track. As yourself what’s possible if we demand better.
I believe it starts with election reform which will have a ripple effect through our state legislature and leadership. Ballot Measure 2 is not a magic solution, but one step towards progress. By changing how we elect our lawmakers, Ballot Measure 2 will encourage politicians – regardless of political ideology or identity – to work together on solutions that advance the interests of Alaskans.
It enhances campaign finance disclosure requirements, opens our semi-closed primary elections to restore the full menu of candidate choices to all Alaskan voters, and elects candidates who win over 50% of the vote through ranked choice voting. Fun Fact: Only five Alaska governors have won with more than 50% of the vote.
For the past twelve years, I’ve worked for political campaigns and elected officials. I know the system. And I know competition is critical to the proper functioning of our political system. In a healthy political system, there is a clear distinction between campaigning and policymaking. Distressingly, many view it as a distinction without a difference, refuting the basic tenet that elected leaders serve everyone they represent, not just those who voted for them.
It comes down to this. Our elected leaders accomplish more when they work together. And they work together more when the system, campaigns, partisan purity pledges, and rigid platform requirements don’t hold candidate’s hostage from day one. That can no longer be the standard if we want to see change.
As a small business owner and lifelong Alaskan who is raising my family here, I believe Ballot Measure 2 is an imperative step in the right direction towards our better selves and a stronger, healthier, more united Alaska.
Rachel Kallander was raised in Cordova, Alaska and currently lives in Anchorage. Kallander is Managing Partner of Kallander & Associates LLC (K&A), a consulting firm serving political, policy, and business sectors statewide. She is also Founder & Executive Director of the Arctic Encounter, the largest annual Arctic policy conference in the U.S. with policy convenings and partnerships worldwide. Kallander is a graduate of the University of Washington School of Law and has worked in Alaska’s policy and political sectors for the past twelve years.