The Daily News asked candidates for statewide office in the Aug. 16 Alaska primary and special U.S. House elections to answer a series of issue and biographical questions to help voters understand their positions. Some questions were suggested by readers. Read all the responses here.
Gregg Brelsford • Parrty: Undeclared • Law Professor, public administrator, attorney • Age: 71 • Residence: Anchorage
Relevant experience or prior offices held
Hello Alaskans. I’m Gregg Brelsford, a business-friendly, independent candidate for Congress.
I drove to Alaska in 1972 and attended UAA while working full time for Alaskan tribes, including as the founding Health Director of Chugachmiut, and the Aleut’s tribal CEO, lobbying for them in Juneau and Washington, D.C. I helped lead the Aleuts’ successful lobbying effort for U.S. Congressional compensation for their interment in WWII.
Next, I earned a law degree at Harvard Law School and practiced in local and international business in Anchorage and elsewhere. In 1994, I ran unsuccessfully for the Alaska state house. Most recently, I served as Manager of the Bristol Bay Borough and Dillingham (interim), where I managed police, docks, and roads.
I have worked to get things done for Alaskans in diverse parts of the state, in local government, tribal, business, legal, and rural, settings. I also know how to get things done in Congress. No other candidate brings this strong mix of experience.
Why are you running for office?
We face exceptional challenges in an increasingly unstable world: rising prices for gas, groceries and housing; growing crime / homelessness; ineffective casework with missing and murdered Native women; constraints on tribal sovereignty; extreme partisans angling to overturn our sacred votes if they lost next elections; hostile international adversaries (Russia will not stop at invading Ukraine and China is watching to see what how far Russia succeeds); and a perfect-storm trifecta of insufficient military capability, lack of energy independence, and melting permafrost, rising temperatures, and disappearing sea ice.
These problems are real and we must be realistic about them. None will be solved overnight. But hiding our heads in the snow is fruitless.
Alaskans are tired of extreme politics. Political gridlock is killing us. As a no-drama, independent leader, I will fight to make us financially and otherwise more safe, secure, and stronger, in today’s unstable world.
Name two big problems or challenges currently facing Alaska and how you plan to address them if elected.
In addition to constraints on developing our natural resources and climate change, addressed elsewhere, we have a crisis of affordability, including. inflation, and the stinging rise in the costs of groceries, gas, housing, and medicine, and widespread homelessness.
Homelessness is statewide. As the recent interim City Manager of Dillingham, we opened the police department lobby on cold nights to homeless people so they wouldn’t freeze. Many of ourselves, and children and grandchildren, cannot now afford to buy a house or rent an apartment. We’ve all cut back on driving and groceries. Lack of affordable housing is statewide. As past rural city manager, I know firsthand the obstacles to hiring needed professionals for lack of housing in the community.
None of these challenges will be fixed overnight. Nevertheless, current Republican candidates claim, without out disclosing specifics, that electing them will solve inflation. I will take these challenges head on.
Do you believe Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 presidential election? If you believe there was fraud, where and how do you think it took place?
Biden won fairly. But, for 20 months now, Trump and his followers have claimed Biden’s victory was obtained by fraudulent voting. Indeed, tons of Republican candidates, some in Alaska, promote this. Many aspire to overturn the votes of future elections if they lose.
While campaigning this past year, I told the hundreds of voters who said they believe the fraud claim that election fraud is grievous and asked them to share with me any information they believe supports the claim. No one has done so. Nor has the claim been supported by any of the 60 lawsuits, three recounts, and five election audits conducted since then.
Anybody can say anything. Republicans can say 2+2=5 but that doesn’t make it accurate, no matter how often/loudly they proclaim it. Elections are the guts of our democracy. I will fight all 2+2=5 fictions that undermine it, and urge every candidate and voter to do the same. Let’s show young people how to vigorously protect accuracy, truth, and our sacred democracy.
Supporters of former President Donald Trump violently attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2020. Do you believe President Trump should be held responsible for the events of Jan. 6?
We now know that Trump and his inner circle intentionally generated and prolonged the violent January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. They shamelessly tried to illicitly overturn thousands of legitimate votes in order to obstruct America’s greatest triumph of democracy – the peaceful transition of the political leadership of our country.
Democracy is sacred. Voting is sacred. Voters are sacred. These are bedrock American principles reaching back before the founding of our country. We fought our War for Independence to govern ourselves by voting to pick our governmental leaders. Since then, thousands of Americans have died in bloody wars for freedom and democracy. Trump’s attempt to erase Americans��� sacred votes is unpatriotic and sacrilegious.
January 6 was an inside job by Trump and his lieutenants. They must be held responsible for trying to overthrow our democracy. But for the patriotic acts of a courageous few, standing firm against Trump, they would have done it.
Do you think Congress should pass legislation to limit or protect abortion access?
Respectfully, there are strong/sincere feelings on all sides of this deeply important matter. Two of my conservative campaign principles are freedom and fairness. I am pro-freedom/fairness across the board.
All Alaskans should have full freedom on major life matters. This includes the freedom to decide what to do with our own bodies: what to put on/in our body, including to not wear a COVID mask/not stick a COVID vaccine needle in our arm.
Likewise, all women should have this same freedom to decide how to treat their own body, including a pregnancy. As Vice-President Cheney said, “Freedom is freedom.” Further, it is only fair that the same freedom available to one also be available to everyone.
I don’t support abortion as birth-control. But no one can fully understand pregnancy in fallible people or difficult circumstances. No woman happily seeks abortion or should be punished for her individual choice. As the Good Book says, mercy is what God asks for all of his children.
What specific actions, if any, should the U.S. government take to curb gun violence?
I am a proud hunter and gun owner, belong to a shooting range and the NRA, hold a concealed carry pistol permit, and passionately support the 2nd Amendment. In Alaska, we widely use guns for subsistence hunting, for protection from bears and other animals in the wild, and other things. Guns are central to our way of life.
I join millions of conservative Americans and safety-conscious gun owners who grieve the shocking numbers of victims of recent mass murders done with guns. Because recent federal legislation is limited, we look for common sense state laws on gun purchasing.
For example, one month after 17 people were killed at a Florida high school in March 2018, Florida Republicans passed a substantive gun safety act. It raised the age to purchase a firearm to 21 from 18, funded school mental health and hardening programs, and removes guns from the possession of unstable individuals. Alaska should look closely at this 4-year old conservative Florid gun safety law.
How do you think new resource development projects in Alaska should be balanced with the interests of environmental protection and climate change mitigation?
I agree with the Resource Development Council, trade association for businesses in Alaska’s fishing, forestry, mining, oil/gas, and tourism industries, and the Alaska Support Industry Alliance, trade association of contractors and suppliers to oil, gas, minerals, and other natural resource development companies: grow a strong, diversified private sector in Alaska by developing natural resources, balanced with the environment and climate, for the benefit of all Alaskans.
We must create integrated strategies that equally balance development with the serious environmental protection and climate change challenges we face. All of this is important and I reject the concept that we are not smart enough to create these types of innovative, integrated, balanced strategies.
We are not going to shut down development but we cannot hide our heads in the snow in terms of the environment and climate change. We put a man on the moon in a decade’s period of time for heaven’s sake. We can do this.
How will you promote putting aside partisan politics to address complex issues in Congress?
Partisan politics will never go away, and we need multiple perspectives on public matters. But, we’re all tired of extreme politics. Many elected officials are wasting time fighting each other and not doing the peoples’ business. The challenges we face are too big and serious for this. Gridlock and stalemate cause missed opportunities we urgently cannot afford.
Today’s politics, where one side obstructs the other side’s ideas or programs, and/or trashes the other side’s people, is not working. Coordination and cooperation to resolve our common problems are not dirty words. We need to be civil and talk with one another respectfully and courteously.
As the leader of tribal and local governments in the past, I constantly dealt with competing ideas and interests. Recognizing that disagreement is ok, so long as expressed with respect and courtesy, was key to working things out. Rarely does one side get all it wants. But even small progress on solving problems is still progress.
Do you believe the federal government is well positioned to continue to address the COVID-19 pandemic and other future pandemics that may emerge?
This is the 2st Century. Pandemics are real and we must be realistic about them. They can be invisible, silent, and deadly. They do not stick to national, state, or other geographical borders and we need sophisticated ongoing medical research to beat them. We need the federal government to do this.
But the feds can’t do it alone. State and local governments have a vital role to play also. I saw this as the Manger of the Bristol Bay Borough when Covid emerged in 2020. Working as a team, all levels of government and private industry jointly kept community Covid outbreaks down while keeping the world’s largest commercial red salmon industry going.
Two of my conservative campaign principles are freedom and fairness. We must maintain our individual freedoms and fairness to everybody. But we must balance this with an eye toward minimizing potentially catastrophic harm to our collective survival. As the Supreme Court once noted, the constitution is not a suicide pact.
Should transgender athletes be allowed to compete in sports according to the gender with which they identify?
Two of my conservative campaign principles are freedom and fairness. All Alaskans should be free to live as they wish. In terms of sports, this freedom must be balanced with fairness.
Athletes should compete on a fair playing field. Current science says biological men are much stronger, that testosterone suppression does not remove the athletic advantage acquired under high testosterone conditions at puberty, and that the male musculoskeletal advantage is retained: shoulder width doesn’t change, their hearts don’t get smaller, they’ve still got big lungs.
Federal law and fairness require that trans athletes be allowed to compete. Fairness can be achieved by changing the male category to “Open” and the women’s category to “Female,” where female refers to the sex recorded at birth. This type of change has been done before in sports – at one time there were no women’s teams, nor could Black Americans compete in top-tier professional sports. This recent fairness-change can be done too.
The federal infrastructure bill, which was voted for by all members of Alaska’s congressional delegation, stands to bring millions in federal funding to projects in Alaska. How would you ensure Alaska maximizes the benefits of this bill?
In December 2021, before the ink was dry on the bill, Begich condemned Don Young for voting for the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure bill that is bringing billions of urgently needed dollars to Alaska. As a recent manager of the Bristol Bay Borough, I know firsthand the immeasurable value this money brings to Alaska for broadband, sewers, roads, and ports. And it means jobs for thousands of Alaskans.
About 200 Republicans in Congress rejected these billions of dollars that will help their constituents. They sold out their own citizens for the petty partisan purpose of denying the opposing party a win.
In denouncing Young, Begich revealed that, for petty partisanship gamesmanship, he too, would sell out Alaska, denying the state these critical resources. Who knows what additional Alaskan needs Begich would trade in the future for anti-Alaska party loyalty if he was elected? Palin would do the same. If you care about infrastructure and other Alaskan needs, vote for anybody but them.
What should the federal government be doing to curb inflation and strengthen the U.S. economy?
We are paying stingingly high prices for gas, groceries, housing, etc. And wages are not keeping up. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. These problems are global, caused in part by Covid, and will not be fixed overnight.
Pointing fingers without proposing solutions, like Republicans do, isn’t enough. We must get things back on track. We need targeted-multiyear, as well as short-term, innovative strategies, and the willingness to make painful tradeoffs. Merely doing more-of-the-same isn’t enough.
Make candidates say specifically what they would do. Here are some of my ideas.
Temporarily suspend the federal gas tax, recognizing this takes away money from fixing highways. Speed up natural resource and alternative energy production, balanced with climate change improvements. One looming problem: insurers now say the future inflationary cost of fixing climate change-related damage, such as by fire and tornados, will eventually make insurance too costly for regular people.
What should be done, if anything, to change federal immigration policies?
We have a problem of “too many” people flooding into our country illegally. This includes people fleeing poor economic conditions, and criminals. We cannot absorb all of the desperate people in the world and need to stop this. One way is to amend federal law to require employers to use E-verify to stop employment of unauthorized aliens.
However, many immigrants enter our country legally and live productive lives as law-abiding citizens, workers, and tax payers. U.S. commerce, and our communities (including churches) depends greatly on legal immigrants who are temporary (agriculture) and permanent (police, hospitals, hotels, restaurants).
Clearly, the U.S. population is declining. We cannot sustain our economic growth, national strength, or support for seniors (for example, Social Security, Medicare), and other things, without productive, hardworking, legal immigrants.
We need to continue to bring in productive legal immigrants and exclude unproductive illegal immigrants.
What is the country’s biggest national security threat?
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exposed a perfect-storm trifecta of national security threats: insufficient military capacity, lack of energy/natural resource independence, and climate change.
We are surrounded by hostile adversaries, such as Russia & China. We need greater military capability, and strong international allies, to deter them. We are dependent on other countries for energy, oil, and precious metals (semiconductors). We should become more self-sufficient to protect ourselves and help our allies.
Climate change is melting the Artic Ocean’s ice, soon allowing Russian/ Chinese warships year-round passage close by, and the permafrost under the struts supporting the Alaska pipeline, a key strategic resource. We must try to fix these and other climate threats.
We need a strategy like DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, which creates cutting-edge technology and solutions for the miliary, to create integrated strategies to address these perfect-storm threats.
Where do you want Alaska and the U.S. to be five years from now in regard to emissions reductions and adaptation to the effects of climate change?
Climate change is real. We must be realistic about it. Air and sea temperatures are warming, ice and permafrost are melting, and erosion and forest/tundra fires are growing We need to deal with this in Alaska and in Congress.
But we are not going to shut down Alaska’s resource economy. We face harmful constraints on developing Alaska’s energy and natural resources and the jobs this brings. We need to grow this development in Alaska and deal with this in Congress.
There is no necessary, inherent reason why we cannot do both: develop our resources and attend to climate change. This is not a binary choice. We put a man on the moon in a decade’s time. We can do this in Alaska and America.
If elected to Congress, I will quickly convene an Alaska summit of all key leaders to get started. I will also propose legislation creating a national group to create innovative technology and integrated (no silos) strategies to do this, like how DARPA does this for military technology and strategy
What other important issue would you like to discuss?
Vote to save democracy in 2022!
I ran for the state House in a Republican primary in 1994 and started the 2022 congressional campaign as a Republican. In January 2022, I left the Republican party, registering as an independent, because many Republicans, including some Alaskan candidates, are increasingly campaigning, with Republican Party support, to undermine democracy – voting for our leaders in fair elections, for which we revolted from England, and for which thousands of America patriots died in war since then.
For 20 months now, Trump and millions of Republicans have failed, and refused, to provide any meaningful evidence to support their claim that Trump won the 2020 presidential election. Yet, many Trump-Republican candidates in other states, for governor and Congress, and some in Alaska, now campaign on the promise to join Trump in overturning our sacred votes if they lose future elections.
Please vote against the Trump-Republicans who wish to destroy our democracy.