Additional reading: Our one pager on the Alaska Senate election.
“A Grizzly-Fighting, Independent Doctor From Alaska Could Help Democrats Turn the Senate Blue.” That’s what Newsweek has to say about Dr. Al Gross of Juneau, Alaska. We at Flip the West concur with their assessment. That’s why we’re going to the mat for Dr. Gross.
It can be tough to keep track of the crises we face: a cratering economy, historic wealth inequality, daily threats to the integrity of our democracy, and an out-of-control pandemic. But if the coronavirus has taught us anything about governing, it’s this: we need to stop belittling experts and start voting them into office. That’s where Dr. Al Gross comes in. He’s not only a respected orthopedic surgeon and a public health expert, but also a commercial fisherman, father, and a fierce, freethinking independent leader.
Alaska’s relative isolation has kept the COVID-19 caseload under control for now, but make no mistake: the Alaskan healthcare system is still in crisis. Care is more expensive in Alaska than anywhere else in the U.S. Dr. Gross knows this system inside and out. A highly respected orthopedic surgeon, he worked in this marketplace for years, observing an incomprehensible system in which Alaskan doctors sometimes made 5x as much as their counterparts in the rest of the U.S. In 2013 he decided he could no longer participate in a system so needlessly expensive that it impoverishes people, encumbers small businesses, and overburdens the economy. So he went back to school to study healthcare reform, receiving a Master’s in Public Health from UCLA.
This is the type of leader Dr. Gross is: when he sees problems, he attacks them with the intelligence, skill, and determination of a surgeon. Where other politicians have high-flying rhetoric and hand-wavy promises, Dr. Gross has plans. He has plans to fix Alaskan healthcare: improve patient care, protect people with pre-existing conditions, offer Medicare as a public option, make drug prices more affordable.
As a scientist and an Alaskan, he knows that climate change is a problem we can’t afford to ignore. Flooding, erosion, and thawing permafrost are putting many Alaskan villages in immediate danger. He has plans for that too. Dr. Gross pledges to develop Alaska’s enormous potential in alternative energy sources, including wind, hydroelectric, and solar. Alaska has been oil-dependent for too long and developing these industries will create good-paying jobs, protect the Alaskan economy from volatile oil prices, and help decrease carbon emissions to halt climate change. Unlike incumbent Sen. Dan Sullivan, Dr. Gross, like more than 60% of his fellow Alaskans, staunchly opposes the destructive Pebble Mine project, which would endanger the largest sockeye salmon run in the world, threatening to destroy not only the natural environment of Bristol Bay, but also the tens of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars the area generates for the Alaskan economy.
Being a representative isn’t only about understanding the issues and crafting policy. It’s about representing your constituents and fighting for your state. Dr. Gross is running to represent the only community he’s ever known. He’s a product of Alaska public servants and Alaska public schools. He’s stood up fiercely to challenges since a young age, taking out a loan to buy his first fishing boat at 14 years old and working as a commercial fisherman to pay his way through college and medical school. He credits these experiences to his Alaskan values – toughness, resilience, and independent thinking – which he also said are what persuaded him to run for office. They’re what persuaded him to crisscross Alaska by boat, plane, and Airstream trailer, travelling from remote villages to the cities, to hear from Alaskans about what they want to see in Washington.
It’s up to us to decide whether we emerge from this crisis with tough, fair-minded leaders who will guide us into the future, or whether we succumb to the sickness. We at Flip the West are giving our all, so that when all is said and done, we have leaders like Dr. Al Gross, intelligent leaders with decency, backbone, and plans for a more just future, leading us forward.