Whew! The primary election in Alaska is over. How nice it would be if the airwaves, internet and newspapers took a break from broadcasting campaign ads! Alas, that is not happening.
Besides choosing candidates for the November ballot, including for a U.S. Senate slot attracting national attention and money, we voted on a single ballot measure. It was a yes or no vote about repealing a tax structure for oil producers which our legislature approved last year. As of the day before the election, the campaign against the ballot measure had raised $14.7 million dollars, much from oil companies. The Vote Yes campaign raised another $628,600 mostly from individuals. The two leading candidates for the Senate spent $8 million and this didn’t include the amount spent by PACs mostly supported by non-Alaskans. These mind-boggling numbers don’t include any of the amounts spent by or for candidates for the Alaska legislature.
What kept running through my head this week was how much good all those dollars could do if they were applied to helping the homeless, the hungry and those struggling to support themselves and their families on low wage jobs. The Food Bank of Alaska spent a bit over $3 million dollars alleviating hunger in 2013. How many more clients could they have helped with some of the millions spent on campaigns? $100,000 can fund another Anchorage home through Habitat for Humanity. Low-income housing is nearly non-existent in Anchorage, so spending those campaign dollars to fund more subsidized housing could help many of the working poor. Services for the mentally ill and rehabilitation centers for those wanting to leave lives of drug and/or alcohol addiction could also be expanded with these many dollars.
August 26 is Women’s Equality Day commemorating the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote. Can we use our votes so that the escalating amounts spent on campaigns are redirected to helping the poor and oppressed, as Jesus advocated for all his followers?
Phyllis Rude, of Anchorage, Alaska, served on the churchwide board from 2008-2014.
Photo by the author. Used with permission.