On Monday, the ultra-conservative Alaska Family Council (AFC) released their 2014 “Values Voter Guide” for the midterm elections now just two weeks away. The candidate questionnaire serves as a handy tool to see where candidates stand on social issues, and helps reporters identify which legislators are most likely to make national headlines at some point during session. Generally for saying something they — or their colleagues — wish they hadn’t.
Topics were broken down into three major categories: Abortion, civil rights (read: the gay), and other. Of the 96 statewide and local candidates sent the survey, only about a third responded. Notably absent were independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker, his lieutenant governor candidate Byron Mallott, and — surprisingly — Governor Parnell’s running mate Dan Sullivan. Senator Begich (D-Alaska), U.S. House Democratic candidate Forrest Dunbarr, and U.S. House Libertarian candidate Jim McDermott also declined to respond.
As is often the case for this particular survey, just two Democrats participated. Only 26 out of 40 Republicans vying for legislative seats chose to respond.
The first three questions dealt with and women’s access to — and the overall legality of — abortion. The first question asked respondents if they would support a constitutional amendment asserting that the state constitution did not guarantee a right to abortion. In 1972, voters approved a “Right to Privacy” provision to be added to the Bill of Rights, by a margin on 45,539 to 7,303. The provision came a full year before Roe v. Wade, and has been consistently held by the courts to include the right to “the protection of reproductive rights,” including abortion. The question featured in the voter guide phrased that a proposed constitutional amendment would “clarify” the existing right to privacy, but in application it would create a new restriction.
Governor Parnell indicated that he supported such an amendment, with the caveat that the support came “with comments.” This was the case for many respondents in all categories. Unfortunately, AFC did not include Parnell’s — or anyone else’s — comments. So, in essence, Parnell is supportive with an unquantifiable asterisk.
23 Republicans agreed, with Chere Klein-Enright (R-District 36), Phil Isley (Non-affiliated – District 18), Cathy Tilton (R-District 12), James Colver (R-District 9), and Pamela Goode (ACP-District 9) undecided. Donald Hadley, running against Democratic incumbent Max Gruenberg in Anchorage, was the only Republican who opposed the amendment outright. He was joined by Democrats Michael Fenster (District 24) and Mabel Wimmer (District 9). Eric Treider, an unaffiliated candidate seeking to oust Republican Sen. Peter Micciche in District O, was the lone senate candidate to oppose the measure.
Republican candidates across the board opposed government funds going to Planned Parenthood to perform or pay for abortions. Both Democrats and Trieder supported such funding, and — again — Klein was undecided.
The highest degree of variation among respondents came when asked when they thought abortion should be legal. They were given several options, ranging from “legal for any reason, at any time during the pregnancy” to “illegal in all circumstances.”
Valley lawmaker and legislative staple Wes Keller (R-District 10) joined longtime south Anchorage representative Bob Lynn (R-District 26) as the only candidates to express the belief that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate Mark Fish, Treider, and Isley did not answer. The rest of the candidates were split between those who believe abortion should only be legal when necessary to save the life of the mother (11 respondents), and those who expanded that to include cases of rape (15). Parnell does not believe abortion in the case of rape should be legal.
Civil Rights and Marriage.
It’s obviously been a big week on the topic of equal rights for LGBT Alaskans. After the U.S. Supreme Court denied the state’s appeal to issue an emergency stay, preventing marriage equality from moving forward, it did just that; moved forward. Same-sex couples began marrying across the state starting on Monday morning. AFC’s voters guide was released the same day, but there is no indication of when respondents where queried. One would imagine it was recently enough that candidates would be aware of the lawsuit challenging Alaska’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman, but it didn’t appear to change many opinions.
When asked if candidates would support legislation, like that offered by outgoing minority leader Hollis French last session, aimed at repealing the 1998 amendment defining marriage — which has been invalidated by the courts — the vast majority said they were opposed.
Steve Thompson (R-District 2), Joseph Blanchard (R-District 4), Hadley, and Klein-Enright were undecided. Democrats Wimmer and Fenster supported the idea, as did Republican Louise Stutes (R-District 32) and — surprisingly — Rep. Lynn Gattis (R-District 7).
Unaffiliated candidate Eric Treider was the only candidate to voice support for state level anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT Alaskans. Klein, Thompson, and Anand Dubey (R-District 21) were unsure of both.
To be clear: while a handful of people thought that the definition of marriage might need to be edited to align with court decisions, only one candidate thought that LGBT citizens should have some degree of protection thereafter. While it’s very possible that candidates not well versed on the topic might have been influenced by AFC’s choice of how they framed the question — “Do you support or oppose passage of legislation… that would amend Alaska’s civil rights law to create special protected classes based on sexual orientation and gender identity? — it’s still a bit perplexing.
AFC polled Alaska’s statewide candidates on whether or not they would support the “Marriage Protection Amendment” — federal legislation authored by Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas) to amend the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman and to prohibit state’s to define it any other way. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) and GOP U.S. Senate candidate Dan Sullivan both said they would support the legislation, while both oppose the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would extend basic workplace protections to LGBT citizens. Begich and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) are on record supporting the bill.
Fish, who marched with the Libertarian Party contingent in this year’s Pridefest “March for Equality” said that, while he opposes the marriage amendment, he opposes ENDA.
Last year, Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R-Wasilla) heavily pushed a constitutional amendment that would eliminate an important chunk of Article 7, Section 1. Specifically, the part that says: “No money shall be paid from public funds for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.” Dunleavy’s proposal would also edit Article IX, Section 6. Where it currently says that “No tax shall be levied, or appropriation of public money made, or public property transferred, nor shall the public credit be used, except for a public purpose,” Dunleavy sought to add “however, nothing in this section shall prevent payment from public funds for the direct educational benefit of students as provided by law.”
In short, the ill-fated aim was to dismantle the firewall state founders erected ensuring that public funds don’t finance religious schools. That controversial effort is the main criticism lodged by Dunleavy’s unaffiliated opponent this year, Warren Keogh.
Parnell, who backed Dunleavy’s legislation, said he would support another effort. Representative Mia Costello — who’s now challenging Democratic candidate Clare Ross for the seat vacated by Hollis French — broke with Parnell and opposes the measure. Costello is joined by her colleague Rep. Mike Hawker (R-District 28), Blanchard, Colver, Hadley, Stutes, and Klein-Enright. Democrats Wimmer and Fenster, alongside Trieder, are also opposed. Young and Sullivan voiced support for federal school choice legislation, with Fish opposing.
Legal pot did not sit well with candidates. Asked about Ballot Measure 2, which would legalize marijuana, only Trieder, Blanchard, and Dukowitz voiced support among legislative candidates. Fish also supports marijuana while Sullivan does not. Young, who has in the past indicated it should be up for the voters to decide, indicated that he now opposed it.