Last Thursday, students at the University of Alaska Anchorage kicked off post-primary debate season with an event sponsored by the College Republicans, College Democrats, and Young Americans for Liberty. Hosted by conservative talk show host Casey Reynolds, the program boasted a majority of candidates for Anchorage and Mat-Su seats. The first portion was granted to the state house candidates. This is the second installment in that series. [Full video available HERE.]
The first post in this series ended in a chuckle. This one starts with a jaw-dropper.
Representative Mia Costello, the incumbent running against Michelle Scannell in District 20, was offered the following question: “What is your position on the second amendment?”
Which doesn’t seem like a valid question. We follow the constitution. The constitution says that we have a right to bear arms. This is kind of like asking, “How about that Womens Suffrage thing?”
Costello responded, in part: “I am a strong supporter of second amendment rights. I am a sponsor of a bill in the legislature, that made it out of the house last session, to allow a person to have the ability to carry a gun.”
If your brain didn’t just break a little bit, you might want to back up and read that one more time.
Apparently, one is not currently, lawfully, able to carry a gun in Alaska. According to Rep. Costello, she authored a bill granting Alaskans the deprived right, which did not previously exist, to carry a firearm. And it totally would have passed… if it weren’t for that meddling Senate!
Quick fact check: there is no such law against gun ownership in Alaska. You’re shocked, I’m sure.
Furthermore, Costello was not the primary sponsor of any firearm legislation. She co-sponsored two bills that had some sort of direct connection to the topic. The first was an apprentice hunting program, which called for the hunting equivalent of a learner’s permit for young drivers. But that didn’t have anything to do with the firearm; it granted the right to “take game.” And it was never passed through the house, or even offered a hearing. (It actually doesn’t sound half-bad.)
The only other bill was HB80. Alaska’s Stand Your Ground law.
HB80 was stopped by the (dang meddling) Senate after testimony outlining how horrible an idea it was.
Supporting the second amendment is one thing. Creating legal loopholes to make it easier for violent criminals to get away with murder is another. HB80 made major efforts in that direction.
The bill Costello disingenuously congratulated herself on being responsible for, touting as a reason to re-elect her, did not “allow a person to have the ability to carry a gun.” It allowed a person to use said gun and then place the burden of proof of murder, in court, on the victim. In most of the cases in states where these laws are on the books, that person tends to be dead and unable to object.
Patti Higgins, the Democratic challenger looking to knock-off incumbent representative Charisse Millett in District 24, also weighed in on gun rights when asked about the UAA policy that forbids open-carry on campus. When asked if she supported the policy or not, she said that the university was in the best position to decide, but then continued to offer a half-judgment, saying: “This is a place of learning, and students should be safe here.”
The truth of the matter is that UAA policy is far from oppressive towards gun owners. Students can have guns in student housing, placed in gun safes overseen by staff. If that’s too bureaucratic, students can elect to keep firearms in their vehicles.
Simply put, if you are enrolled in the University of Alaska Anchorage on a day when Red Dawn happens, you will have ample time to run out to your truck, grab your piece, and open fire at the descending invaders. Might even be some internship credits.
The ease of access that exists is absolutely sufficient and shouldn’t be compromised by the risk of introducing open carry in classrooms where heated dialog is part of many every day conversations; and certainly not on a campus where on-site childcare service mixes very young children with the broader student population throughout the halls. The existing policy works well and makes sense.
If you believe that, say so. Otherwise, it looks like you’re trying to cover something up that looks just fine in the light of day.
Anand Dubey, running against Democratic incumbent Lindsey Holmes in District 19, was asked to describe the relationship between Alaska and the federal government.
He answered, plainly: “Well, it definitely should not be a relationship of master and slave. That’s for sure.”
Dubey thoughtlessly concludes that a “heavy dependence” on funding from the federal government is indistinguishable from slavery. The whole “we’re a young state without the privilege of a couple hundred years of infrastructure under our belt” be damned.
Sir, if I may ask, have any of the following things happened to you lately: You identify that you work for an information technologies company. Do you get paid? When your boss gets mad at you, is the disciplinary measure generally a violent public whipping? Has your wife ever been sold to someone that is not you? Your son? Your daughter? If so, did a court refuse to hear your case because, as property and not a person, you don’t have standing?
If none of these instances ring a very clear bell, you just did something horrible that you should apologize for immediately, involving a subject that you maybe need to read a book or two about.
Mr. Dubey, slavery is not campaign fodder. Ever. When Bob Lynn looks over at you like you just said something unforgivably crazy, you’re losing the conversation. And when you label Alaska as having a relationship with the feds synonymous to slavery, and follow it up a couple sentences later with a joke about the Permanent Fund Dividend check, you disqualify yourself as a candidate and embarrass us all as your peers.
A Constitutional Convention.
By state constitutional mandate, every ten years Alaskans are asked whether or not they think we should have a constitutional convention. This year, conservative talk show hosts and, most recently, former Attorney General under Governor Egan, John Havelock, have decided to make a case for answering in the affirmative. The justifications for a convention run the gamut – from protecting the Permanent Fund to campaign finance reform – but are all anchored by the ambiguity of what actually voting for a convention means.
The protocol for how the convention (if voted for by a simply majority) proceeds is expressly stated in the state constitution, Article 13, Section 3: “delegates to the convention shall be chosen at the next statewide election, unless the legislature provides for the election of the delegates at a special election.”
Calls from Havelock and others to use a constitutional convention to fight back the tide of corporate influence are well intentioned, but profoundly short-sighted.
Delegates are elected through the same process that our candidates for the legislature are. A convention essentially erects a shadow government; a new bureaucratic body comprising 55 delegates – just shy of the 60 we elect to represent us in Juneau. Except, these 55 delegates would serve to represent us on a piece of paper that restricts what the people we elect to represent us in Juneau can do.
The age-old political moniker that we love so much: “Are you better off now than you were four years ago,” needs to be invoked in a much more serious sense as it relates to the question of a constitutional convention: Are the people more in control than special interests today than they were 56 years ago, before Exxon, Shell, ConocoPhillips, BP, and Citizens United?
If we aren’t, then what can we hope to accomplish through a constitutional convention, aside from a newly-crafted and temporary branch of government that can be influenced by the insane amount of campaign contributions that are about to rain down on our state? We could end up with a radically different guiding document.
The candidates for District 26, Laura Reinbold and Roberta Goughnour, were handed the question of whether or not they thought this would be a good idea.
Laura Reinbold got it right. Kind of.
“I am not a supporter – I will be voting no on the… constitutional convention. However, I do support amendments made to the constitution that follow the law.”
Her answer was a weird paradox of sorts in Republican politics. She acknowledged that the constitution is a living document, alterable by the amendment process, while failing to understand that constitutions don’t “follow” the law – they are the law.
Goughnour was undecided. “My fear is,” she said, “that we will end up putting in provisions that actually restrict the rights of Alaskans and that is really not what a constitution is for.”
Meh. Constitutions are designed to restrict powers. A free society hinges on having to prove why something should be illegal, or a power not granted, rather than starting off with things being prohibited, and having to prove their legitimacy. But constitutions absolutely and necessarily restrict the powers of the government, and, in some cases the citizen.
And, beyond that, it’s a bit late in the game to be, on one hand, a candidate for elected office who plans to fill in the box next to your own name, and on the other hand undecided on an issue placed on the same ballot.
The Progressive Movement.
We’ll close the curtain on the house candidates with a clip of District 22 candidate Lisa Vaught not knowing what “The Progressive Movement” is.
[To be Continued on the Senate side in Part 3...]
About The Author
John Aronno is a co-founder and managing editor at Alaska Commons, 2013 Alaska Press Club Award winner for best political reporting print-small, and recipient of the 2010 Alaska Press Club’s Suzan Nightengale Award for Best Columnist in a small paper. Aronno has had his work featured in the Huffington Post, the Anchorage Press, the Alaska Dispatch, and the Rachel Maddow Show, and is listed among the state's top reporters on the Washington Post's "The Fix." He writes the weekly column “On Politics” for Alaska Commons.