Jessica Cook, left, and Les Gara stand in the Peninsula Clarion’s offices on Thursday, June 30, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Jessica Cook, left, and Les Gara stand in the Peninsula Clarion’s offices on Thursday, June 30, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Alaska Voices: You deserve a governor who’ll put jobs, privacy, fish first

We can do better

  • By Les Gara
  • Wednesday, August 10, 2022 12:15am
  • Opinion

By Les Gara

I think it’s important for you to hear real plans from the candidates who want to run this state. While some won’t answer press questionnaires or show up for debates, I have, every time.

As someone who grew up in foster care, I was lucky enough to succeed. I’ve been fortunate to serve you as a legislator and an assistant attorney general on the civil prosecution of Exxon after the catastrophic Valdez oil spill, and want you to know my core value — that every person deserves the chance to succeed. That means the opportunity to find a good-paying job, and the right to the best schools, job training and university we can provide.

Workers deserve a living minimum wage, not a poverty wage. We should protect our fish and fishermen, not play fish politics.

For those of you who care about reproductive freedom, I’m the only candidate for governor who believes in it. Alaska law is now our last line of defense to the right to choose. I’m the only candidate who’ll ask judges if they’ll uphold our court precedent that protects that right, so future judges don’t take it away like radical U.S. Supreme Court justices have at the federal level. I don’t believe government has the right to tell you what personal medical decisions you can make. Not a single one of my opponents, all of whom say they are pro-life, can honestly say any of that.

That’s why I and my running mate, Jessica Cook, a bright education leader from Palmer, have received the Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates (Planned Parenthood’s advocacy arm) endorsement.

Today one-third of our young people see no future here, and are moving to other states. Our biggest export is becoming our people. That needs to change.

I’m the only major candidate in this race who hasn’t tried to cut education funding. I’ve voted to reduce class sizes and keep school costs up with inflation, so we don’t keep losing teachers to other states and don’t keep taking some of our best teachers away from students who deserve them. I’ve pushed needed pre-K for any child whose parent wants it. I’ve done that my whole career as a legislator, not just in an election year.

We have the responsibility to battle global warming, and need to work to build needed renewable energy across the state. That will reduce energy costs and create good-paying jobs.

Alaska suffers from too many “worsts in the nation.” Too much suicide. Too much child abuse.

We can do better.

I’ve always voted for more available, needed mental health and substance abuse treatment. This state has ignored these problems so long that now we’re losing mental health specialists, and pay to fly them up here at more cost. We need to train and attract the health professionals Alaskans deserve.

We need to stop giving our state away to the wealthiest corporations in the world. I support responsible mining and resource development. Unlike Gov. Dunleavy, I don’t support the toxic Pebble Mine, which threatens the greatest remaining salmon runs in the world. I’ll never do what this governor has done to threaten closures of commercial salmon fishing, for no reason, in Cook Inlet’s federal waters. And I’ll replace those appointees who allow over 1,000 tons of halibut and over 500,000 chum and king salmon to be killed, while Outside Factory bottom trawlers drag nets the size of a 747 along the ocean floor.

I’ll pick Alaskans who put your rights to commercial, subsistence and sportfish first.

Today, Alaska gives away over $1 billion of your money to the wealthiest oil companies in the world in unjustifiable subsidies. We should receive a fair share for our oil, and treat oil companies fairly, not lavishly. By ending these corporate subsidies — ones I voted against as a legislator and that Gov. Dunleavy voted for as a senator — we can end the constant fight over the PFD and pay a strong PFD of over $2,200, that grows annually. And not do that at the expense of schools, jobs and a better future.

It’s time for a change. I hope you’ll join me and Jessica so we can more this state forward again.

Les Gara is former member of the Alaska House of Representatives, and has lived in Anchorage and Fairbanks before that.

Jessica Cook is a 22-year public school teacher, and former vice president of both our statewide and Anchorage education associations. She lives in Palmer.

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