Kevin Clarkson, Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s Attorney General designee, drew fire from supporters and opponents alike at a hearing with the House Judiciary committee on Monday.
He said only 10 percent of his work has been related to controversial social cases. His work on cases involving social issues has drawn attention, with some gay rights and abortion rights advocates raising concerns against him at the hearing.
“I feel my family has been personally hurt by Clarkson’s discriminatory efforts,” said Lin Davis, a retired state worker who testified in Juneau. She said she wasn’t allowed to add her wife to her health insurance plan.
“I haven’t seen anything from Mr. Clarkson that gives me hope that he would support our efforts to have equal protection,” she said. “I would strongly urge you not to confirm him.”
Some Alaska residents on the line said that Clarkson’s work has been too divisive, especially in areas of LGBTQ, sexual health and reproductive rights. Some said that Alaska needs a more moderate attorney general who represents all of Alaskans, not just white, religious ones.
Alyson Currey, a Planned Parenthood representative, also spoke in opposition to Clarkson’s appointment. She said throughout his career, Clarkson has elevated religious organizations when it comes to abortion rights. But one representative said it sets a bad precedent to judge candidates based on clients they represented.
“Don’t you think maybe it’s kind of a dangerous precedent to say we shouldn’t confirm a lawyer who doesn’t agree with us?” asked Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage.
Currey said that precedent has already been set, because there were people who were nominated for positions last session, who used to work for Planned Parenthood and weren’t confirmed as a result of their previous work experience and past views.
Rep. Adam Wool, D-Fairbanks, also asked about Clarkson’s involvement with any cases regarding gay marriage.
“The city of Fairbanks today is going to hear a city ordinance about non-discrimination based on gender, sexual identity,” Wool said. “If the state legislature were to pass a law like that would you support it?”
“It wouldn’t be my job to support it,” Clarkson said. “It would be my job to enforce it.”
Clarkson has said he helped draft the 1998 state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. But he notes the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage is now the law.
Thorough, hard-working and honest were some adjectives used to describe him and his work as a lawyer by several attorneys who testified by phone on Clarkson’s behalf.
“I couldn’t give him a higher recommendation,” said one person on the line. “There’s never been any issue with anything he’s done as a lawyer.”
Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, asked Clarkson if he would be comfortable prosecuting Gov. Mike Dunleavy if he found out that the governor was breaking the law.
“I have every confidence I’m not going to face that problem,” Clarkson says. “I believe he respects the law. I can’t put him in a headlock and stop him from doing what he wants to do. If the governor decides to not follow my advice, perhaps if I advise something is not constitutional, the check at that point is the judiciary.”
LeDoux motioned to forward his nomination to the joint session, where the House and Senate will vote on his appointment.
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