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We Build Alaska

Voting no on a constitutional convention is an easy choice

I took advantage of early voting recently to add my voice to the broad and bipartisan opposition to a constitutional convention. It was not a difficult decision for me.

Despite months of hype leading up to the vote, I still have yet to hear a single compelling reason to vote yes. A November 1 op-ed here by Senator Shelley Hughes (R – Palmer) did not change that.

Putting aside the foundational absurdity of an election-denier pontificating about civics, Hughes’ piece was long on partisan talking points and strikingly short on facts or an actual explanation about why anyone should vote yes. “Much is at stake”, she declared ominously, without a hint of elaboration.

Despite a 1,000-word ramble, Senator Hughes failed to identify a single issue that she thinks is worth calling a convention over. Instead, she engaged in fear-mongering about “dark money”, surely hoping no one noticed the typical hypocrisy of elected people, who only ever object to dark money that supports candidates or causes they don’t like, while doing nothing to change the system that allows it.

Hughes’ fear-mongering extended to inaccurate characterizations of Vote No supporters, trying to paint them, a bit dishonestly, as exclusively Outside interests attempting to call the shots here.

To the contrary, the Vote No campaign is being spearheaded by a coalition of experienced and responsible Alaska leaders from across the political spectrum. They stand with an equally diverse array of statewide businesses and organizations in opposition to a convention they rightly call expensive and unnecessary.

This is no thuggish Outside Goliath coming to put down a virtuous Alaska David, as Hughes would have us believe. This is a wide swath of Alaskans of all political, social, and cultural stripes, coming together against a narrow-minded and largely intolerant minority segment of voters who are currently driving the Vote Yes bus, clamoring to fix what clearly ain’t broke.

Consider Jim Minnery, president of Alaska Family Council, an organization dedicated to opposing a woman’s right to make her own reproductive and health-care choices. Consider also Jake Libbey, publisher of the Christian nationalist propaganda blog Alaska Watchman. Both are part of the “ConventionYes” steering committee.

It is no stretch to conclude that these are not latter-day Jack Coghills and Bill Egans, helping to craft a new and somehow better Alaska Constitution based on consensus and sustainability. So it is unlikely – after the $17 million price tag and years of uncertainty before it’s all over – that a document would be produced that a majority of Alaskans would get behind.

But I did get a good chuckle out of Senator Hughes’ complaints about the ineffective State Legislature and the gridlock there that has prevented meaningful policy changes over the years. Seemed like an odd thing for her to identify as a problem, considering she has made her living as a legislator for more than a decade now, including most of the last two years as Senate majority leader.

What has she done in all this time to overcome the gridlock she accurately identifies as an obstacle to progress? Where is her leadership on this?

Has she used her constituent interactions, her periodic town hall meetings, or any of her many re-election campaigns to outline the importance of a state fiscal plan and speak the truth to her constituents about the fiscal realities facing Alaska? Or has she pandered, like so many other elected people, to the libertarian socialist portion of the electorate, who demand to be free from the imagined tyranny of government, while simultaneously demanding a handout every fall?

Perhaps the most breathtakingly tone-deaf question posed by Hughes in her op-ed was “do we really want to leave the fiscal and cultural hot button issues to the gridlocked legislature …?” With apologies for answering a question with a question, isn’t this the very thing we elect legislators to do?

Her question unwittingly hits on the real solution, though.

Alaska doesn’t need a constitutional convention, it needs better leaders. It needs leaders with the vision to see beyond the next Permanent Fund check. It needs leaders who will speak the truth to constituents, even when it may not be popular.

We need to elect more statesmen and fewer rigid ideologues. We need more Clem Tillions, Jay Hammonds, and Hugh Malones. Effective leaders like Ted Stevens, Don Young, Curt Menard and Carl Gatto all understood that compromise is not a bad word, and that it’s a necessary ingredient for meaningful public policy.

I will agree vigorously with Senator Hughes, though, on one point – that Alaska is at a crossroads. I just disagree, equally vigorously, that a constitutional convention is the answer.

The crossroads we are facing can only be navigated by principled leaders who put the state ahead of personal and political interests. Never has Alaska more desperately needed elected officials who understand that without a vibrant future that offers paths of opportunity for Alaska families and businesses, outmigration and economic decline will continue here.

Election Day is November 8. Early balloting remains an option until then. If you haven’t done so already, please vote like it matters.

Mark Kelsey is a retired journalist who lives near Wasilla.

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Thanks for Writing
25 days ago

Great piece!

Tom Braund
25 days ago

Mr. Kelsey, you are “declaring ominously, without a hint of elaboration.” It’s contagious.   Seems to me that you enjoy stripping the Convention’s legitimacy. Proof of that statement is in your own article. The convention delegates don’t set rules; they list things for voters’ consideration. It’s then the voters who set the rules.  If you haven’t heard even one compelling reason to vote for a Constitutional Convention, you’re either lying or your head is in a dark place.  You use words to excite emotional responses. You said, “Hughes’ piece was long on partisan talking points and strikingly short on facts or an actual explanation about why anyone should vote yes.” I hate it when… Read more »

A no vote...
24 days ago
Reply to  Tom Braund

Gosh, it wouldn’t be a Grievance Factory submission without mentioning communism, George Soros or all those shadow-lurking nefarious operatives now would it… A trifecta! All snark aside, though, I encourage readers to take a spin through the Alaskan Independence Party’s “proposed constitution,” which is readily available on its website. AIP chairman Bob Bird has been the face of the Convention Yes group in many forums, so you can bet some of the following proposals will get an airing if a convention is approved. I will just leave a few of these here: •Membership in the United States of America would… Read more »

Floridawoman
24 days ago
Reply to  Tom Braund

Bringing up Soros and calling a nazi survivor a nazi is just a dog-whistle for antisemitism. If Tom and Bob would just admit they hate Jews we could at least have an adult discussion about hate. Why Landfield continues to promote/facilitate antisemitic propaganda is beyond me-

Akwhitty
23 days ago
Reply to  Floridawoman

You accused me of racism when I said “may the eights be with you ” to an article. Now you accuse this writer of antisemitism. I accuse you of being be a three ball bitch.

Floridawoman
23 days ago
Reply to  Akwhitty

Your defending someone who is Accusing a Jewish child who survived holocaust of being a Nazi? We know what you are.

Floridawoman
23 days ago
Reply to  Floridawoman

Your defending someone who is accusing a Jewish child, who survived the Holocaust, as being a Nazi? We know what you are.

Lynn Willis
24 days ago

Thanks for your response to Senator Hughes. This convention is all about injecting personal religious beliefs into the Alaska State Constitution. Huges, Minnery and their ilk might reflect on these quotes from a real conservative Barry Goldwater. “Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal… Read more »

Mark Kelsey
24 days ago
Reply to  Lynn Willis

Great quote. Very appropriate.

David McArthur
24 days ago
Reply to  Mark Kelsey

Mark,
Just wondering are you related to John Kelsey?

Mark Kelsey
23 days ago
Reply to  David McArthur

If you mean the Valdez John Kelsey, then no. At least not closely.

David McArthur
23 days ago
Reply to  Mark Kelsey

Mark,
Well regardless, thank you for presenting your perspective.

ACFAK
22 days ago
Reply to  Lynn Willis

It is the will of God for Nations to follow him. Alaska will return to his arms in the voting booth or in the grave.

John
23 days ago

Well-written commentary that calls out a lot of nonsense and hidden, or perhaps not so hidden, agendas of Alaska’s Religious Right who are seeking a constitutional convention to outlaw abortion, politicize the judiciary, send public taxpayer dollars to fund their private religious schools (even though these churches pay no taxes while holding partisan political events in their churches), and in general march Alaska and the US ever closer to a theocracy. Happily, those opposing a constitutional convention are prominent so-called “selfish socialists” such as Frank Murkowski and John Coghill, two of Alaska’s most staunchly conservative former elected officials. And please,… Read more »

Kevin S Daugharty
23 days ago

Mr Kelsey, Great an accurate piece. Lobbyists, corporations and non secular nonsensical’s are the only entities in favor of a constitutional convention. Our current constitution was brilliantly designed to protect our citizens from corporate exploitation and own the resources in our state. Senator Hughes want to give away the Alaskan citizens Natural Resources to her corporate masters. Our constitution was designed to educate all of our children in a fair equitable manner in their home villages. Senator Hughes and her ilk of Constitutional Convention Crew wants us to close village school and divert Educational dollars to Private Schools Our Constitution… Read more »

Floridawoman
22 days ago

Jeff what is your plan to minimize-eliminate the recent increase in antisemitic comments on your website?

Lorenandrews
9 days ago

We need leadership in Alaska that will cut wasteful spending immediately. We need to quit running ferries to remote areas so people can “live in the bush”on the taxpayers dime. When is the native population going to quit holding their hands out for more more more…. Alaska is a joke to the lower 48. Who have been paying our way since day one.