Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct a spelling error.
J.R. Myers, a behavioral health consultant for the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, is running for the Alaska House of Representatives District 30 seat with the social and fiscal conservative Alaska Constitution party.
According to the biography on his website, Myers was born and grew up in Montana, where he was active in Republican and Libertarian politics, and has masters degrees in Human Services and Professional Counseling from the University of Great Falls. He previously served as president of the Alaska Counseling Association.
In 2010 he founded the Alaska chapter of the Constitution Party, which according to the preamble of its platform, seeks “to restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries.” Myers presently serves as the Alaska Constitution Party’s chairman.
Myers ran for Alaska governor in 2014, an effort he said was partially meant to gain legal recognition for the Constitution Party. With state recognition — earned by getting 3 percent of the vote in a gubernatorial or U.S senatorial race — a party’s candidates don’t need to use nominating petitions to get on Alaskan ballots and can be nominated in a state-run primary election instead.
With 2.5 percent of the 2014 gubernatorial vote, Myers came short of the requirement and Constitution Party candidates had to seek petition signatures to be included on this year’s ballot. Myers now uses state recognition of political parties as an example of what he calls a biased electoral system favoring the two major parties — a system he said he’d make a priority of reforming, if elected.
“I advocate that all candidates need to either collect a petition, such as I had to do, to appear on the ballot, or that they should be nominated at their party conventions at the expense of the parties themselves,” Myers said.
Before entering the State House race, Myers sought the Constitution Party’s nomination for U.S President, but lost a March 2016 party primary in Idaho. He’s now running for the House District 30 seat vacated by outgoing representative Kurt Olson against Democrat Shauna Thornton, Republican Gary Knopp, and nonpartisan candidate Daniel Lynch.
As a fiscal policy, Myers advocates a financial plan suggested in 2015 by economics professor Scott Goldberg of the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research. That plan calls for funding state government with other financial earnings — in addition to the permanent fund investment earnings and oil and gas revenue presently used to fund government — which Goldsmith wrote could add $2.2 billion in revenue to the state budget after paying for the permanent fund dividend and contributing to the permanent fund principal.
Myers cites the Goldsmith plan in calling for a state spending level of $3.5-$4 billion. In fiscal year 2017, the state appropriated $4.3 billion, though
“We don’t need to be looking for additional revenue at this time,” Myers said. “Our entire state has the population of a mid-sized city in the Lower 48, and yet we spend near the top with dismal results in many areas. We need to rethink the entire paradigm. The state government should not be the economic engine, and we should not be investing in things like that pipeline which is going to further indebt us and cause us economic harm. If we get the government down to the right size, we won’t have to be tinkering with the tax system all the time, which scares off investors and puts uncertainty into the marketplace.”
Myers called for a “philosophical redirection” of the purpose of government — making it more decentralized, with more local responsibility for services. He said he believes that in some areas less spending could produce more effective services.
“Certainly with education we can see that we spend near the top of the list and we achieve near the bottom, as far as results go,” Myers said. “So maybe there’s a paradoxical correlation — maybe if we spend less it will actually improve our education. We need to rethink what we’re doing and we need to return more to a basic system.”
Another priority for Myers in office would be to “defend the right of innocent life from conception to natural death and oppose the use of any euthanasia or assisted suicide,” he said, adding that eliminating public funding for abortion would be an important part of that goal.
As one of four Alaska Constitution party candidates running across the state, Myers said this year’s election has been a good one for third parties such as his.
“We’re entering a new era of plurality elections, and so we don’t necessarily have to obtain 50-plus-one percent of the vote to be successful,” he said. “Just being involved in the process is helping to shape the public debate, so I think it’s healthy the more voices that are involved in the political arena.”
The District 30 race, with no incumbent and four candidates whom Myers described as “strong,” is an especially good opportunity, he said.
“I believe the race could be won with as little as 35 percent of the vote,” Myers said. “So I’m just encouraging people to get out, be active participants and educate themselves on the issues, and be involved, to vote their conscience, and not to give up on the system.”
Reach Ben Boettger at firstname.lastname@example.org.