Opinion: Dunleavy may crash Alaska’s fragile economy

Mike Dunleavy didn’t give Alaska Federation of Natives attendees much to cheer about in mid-October (which seems an eternity away in politics). People did clap politely after his opening remarks, which included that his wife Rose and daughters are Alaska Native.

Dunleavy should be proud of Rose. I like Rose. Everybody likes Rose. A ticket agent, Rose has warmly greeted Alaska Airlines passengers for years, including people flying home to Kotzebue.

If I could vote for Rose, I would. But Rose is not on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Dunleavy is. He’s way different from Rose, who grew up in Noorvik in the Kotzebue region, which conflicted over Dunleavy versus Mark Begich for governor. After all, Rose could be Alaska’s First Lady.

That may sound promising, but Dunleavy’s voting record as state senator does not bode well for urban or rural Alaska. Dunleavy could be Alaska’s “death by a thousand cuts” with cuts to education, elder care, Medicaid expansion, infrastructure, you name it. He’s already voted to cut massively as a senator, including 700 teachers and support staff statewide, and more, including law enforcement.

“I’ve seen (Dunleavy) vote to cut the prosecutors we need to put criminals in jail,” writes Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage. “Today more criminals are in our communities, committing more crime.”

Dunleavy’s proposals don’t add up. He’s voted to slash education in Alaska, then contradicts himself by saying he’ll build expensive boarding schools in rural Alaska, drawing students from surrounding village schools. He claims he won’t cut your PFD, until soon enough there’s not enough money for any PFDs. He’ll disappear our reserves AND slash a shrinking budget that triggered Alaska’s long recession. Realtors and bankers should fear Dunleavy crashing an already fragile economy.

While Begich got strong responses at AFN, Dunleavy repeatedly got stone silence. Maybe many Valley residents like that. Unlike Dunleavy, though, Begich acknowledged Gov. Bill Walker’s “amazing, courageous action” to drop out of the race, prompting Native leaders to heap praise on Walker.

Dunleavy made Walker’s emotional withdrawal all about Dunleavy, whose campaign called it “a bitter, partisan attack.” How is that bitter after Native leaders had just honored the governor so movingly? Dunleavy should have appealed to Walker voters at this crucial moment, not alienate them.

The Northwest Arctic is pushing back on Dunleavy. “I’m not voting for governor because he has nice family members, or because we’re family,” Sandy Shroyer-Beaver wrote on her Facebook page. “I want to vote for someone who treats all Alaskans equally.”

Shroyer-Beaver was Northwest Arctic regional school board president for years and a board member when Dunleavy was superintendent. She helped end the Dunleavy-instigated practice of pushing out perfectly good teachers.

Instead of answering to Alaskans, Dunleavy will be beholden to Outside corporate money, including his wealthy brother Francis Dunleavy in Texas. Outside dollars have been bankrolling independent Dunleavy advertising efforts, saturating Alaska with signage and media spots designed to overwhelm Begich.

We’ll see if Outside corporate money can buy Alaska’s governor’s mansion.

John Creed is emeritus professor of journalism after 30 years of teaching for the University of Alaska in Kotzebue.

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