Independent U.S Senate Candidate Margaret Stock poses for a campaign portrait in February 2016.

Independent U.S Senate Candidate Margaret Stock poses for a campaign portrait in February 2016.

U.S Senate candidate Margaret Stock running as independent

Independent U.S. Senate candidate Margaret Stock — one of 13 candidates challenging Lisa Murkowski in this year’s Senate race — spent last Sunday at her booth in Soldotna Creek Park during Soldotna’s Progress Days festival, giving her pitch to reform immigration and simplify government.

“A guiding philosophy I’d have in the Senate is to keep things simple,” Stock said. “This is something that’s gotten lost over the years. The United States code has gotten so big that no human being can read it anymore, and I don’t think it’s good for a nation that calls itself a nation of laws if people can’t read the laws anymore.”

Presently an Anchorage-based immigration attorney and formerly a U.S. Military Police Corps Lieutenant Colonel, West Point constitutional law professor and Pentagon policy specialist, Stock has spent a career within the legal complexity she now criticizes. Although she’s never held an elected office, Stock has testified in congressional hearings as a legal scholar specializing in immigration and said she worked on parts of defense bills while at the Pentagon.

“… I do know about drafting bills and how that process works,” Stock said. “I’ve worked on legislation myself, and I expect I’ll bring a fresh perspective because I’m a person who knows how to write a bill.”

The fourth of nine children, Stock grew up in Massachusetts where her mother was a union organizer and part-time reporter for a local newspaper and her father a truck driver. Beginning her political life as a voter, she registered Republican.

“I liked the principals of the free market, letting people live their lives the way they wanted to,” Stock said of her Republican affiliation. “The history of the party also attracted me — Abe Lincoln, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, the equality principals.”

After Stock’s father died when she was 15, she said her family “kind of fell apart.”

“I ended up being homeless for a while,” Stock said. “I was in a shelter for teenagers. I dropped out of high school, but I had a guidance counselor who cared about me. I had gotten a job working in a factory. I went back to see her, because I realized I wasn’t going down a path that was going to lead to success in life. I went back to see her, and she said ‘I could probably get you into college.’”

At Boston University, Stock joined the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps before transferring to Harvard to study government. She came to Alaska in 1985 as a military police officer at Fort Richardson.

After graduate studies at Harvard and teaching constitutional and national security law at West Point U.S. Military Academy from 2001 to 2006, a Department of Defense recruiting program led Stock to the issue that would define her later career: immigration law.

“I was an advocate, post-911, of immigration that helps our national security,” Stock said. “And immigration can help our national security a great deal… Instead of focusing on keeping people out our country, we need to focus on letting the right people in, and that’s really key to our security.”

Stock described the “right people” as entrepreneurs, family members of Americans, people who are going to run high-tech businesses, people who are going to engage in the international trade needed to keep the economy strong, teachers and people who are going to translate foriegn languages for the U.S military — “the folks who made our nation a superpower over the centuries.”

Stock led the Department of Defense’s Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program (MAVNI), which offered a faster naturalization process to legal immigrants who serve in the armed forces with medical or certain languages skills — a program for which she won a grant in 2013 from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Speaking on benefits of functioning legal immigration, Stock cited a metaphor from a book she recommended on the subject, the 2013 Immigration Wars by former Florida governor and 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush and attorney Clint Bolick.

“The immigration system is supposed to be like a dam that powers the country,” Stock said. “It’s supposed to channel the energy of all these people who want to come to the United States and turn it into power for our economy, bring jobs and reunited families. Our current immigration system is a leaky dam. It’s a big mess, it’s got holes in it. Congress keeps trying to patch the different holes, but then they leak around it. It’s not providing the power it’s supposed to provide… We need to tear out the dam and build a new one for the 21st century.”

Making her Senate bid as an independent, Stock said the Republican Party’s recent social policies have alienated her, particularly those discriminating against LGBT individuals.

In a Senate with 44 Democrats and 54 Republicans, there are two presently-serving independents — Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine. In a partisan political environment, Stock said she’s confident independents can be influential.

“I’ve been endorsed by the Centrist Project — it’s an organization that’s trying to put more independents into the Senate,” Stock said. “It’s an organization that’s trying to put more independents into the Senate. The theory there is that if you get enough independents in the Senate they’ll be the honest powerbrokers between the parties, because the parties will need our votes.”

The Centrist Project is a 501(c)4 social welfare nonprofit with the goal of helping to elect five independent senators in the next two election cycles who agree with its “Centrist Principals” of fiscal and environmental responsibility, economic opportunity, social tolerance and prioritizing national needs over party good. Thus far, Stock is the only candidate to be endorsed in 2016 by the nation-wide group.

The Centrist Project’s Executive Director Pam Peake wrote in an email that the endorsement doesn’t include financial support.

Alongside hyperpartisanship, Stock identified the influence of special interest-donors as one of Congress’s greatest dysfunctions. Stock said she’s not taking corporate contributions to her campaign — a decision she said has helped rather than hurt her fundraising.

“I am running against a very well-funded opponent, but I’ve found I can get a lot of individual contributions,” Stock said. “… You’d be surprised, but a lot of people will donate individually to a candidate who says she’s not taking money from corporate PACs (political action committees).”

According to an email from Stock’s campaign manager Jane Sheehan, Stock has received contributions from advocacy PACs — $4,000 from the PAC Immigrants List and $200 from the PAC of Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a 2015 Chicago mayoral candidate and immigration reform supporter. Stock’s Federal Elections Commission page states that 87.7 percent of her campaign fund, or $404,503, has been donated by individuals with a further 11 percent from candidate contributions.

Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

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