U.S. Senate candidate targets parties, money's influence
An independent U.S. Senate candidate with a $475,000 war chest and an impressive resume campaigned in Haines three days during the Southeast Alaska State Fair, drawing lines of distinction with incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.
Harvard-educated Margaret Stock is an Anchorage-based immigration attorney, retired lieutenant colonel with the U.S. Army Reserves and past winner of the MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant.
A 30-year Alaskan, Stock said in an interview she chose to run as an independent because "the (Republican) party's become extreme and obstructionist. They don't try to solve problems anymore."
"When I first became a Republican, the party was seen as boring but respectable. It got things done. It was strong on defense, strong on foreign policy, and strong on social tolerance and not interfering with people's individual rights. That's not what the modern Republican party stands for. You can look at their platform and see that," Stock said.
Democrats aren't blameless, either, she said, choosing party interests over the public good, she said. "We've reached a point in American history where people are just tired of it."
Residents have expressed the same things to her as have other Alaskans, she said. "People are very unhappy with the way things are going in Washington. They're unhappy with the infighting and the dysfunction between the political parties."
Stock specifically faulted Murkowski for flopping on whether the Senate should hold hearings on a nominee to replace deceased U.S. Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia.
"(The Senate) doesn't have to approve a nominee, but they have to give the nominee a hearing and vote and they won't do that. They're absent without leave. Instead of following the Constitution, (Murkowski) is following (Senate majority leader) Mitch McConnell."
She also said Murkowski has made "major mistakes," including supporting an "Alaska exception" to the 2013 reauthorization of the federal Violence Against Women's Act that angered Alaska Natives. Murkowski later supported repeal of the exception. "Native communities are upset with her. She realized she made a mistake, but a U.S. senator shouldn't do that," Stock said.
A supporter of campaign finance reform, Stock staid Murkowski's campaign funding includes a "massive amount" of donations from corporate political action committees (PACs) and energy industry executives. "Who is she going to listen to? Ordinary Alaskans telling her to diversify energy, or is she going to listen to people who are giving her all this money?"
One change Stock supports would be to prohibit lobbyists on the federal level from lobbying while Congress is in session, a rule that exists on the state level. Federal lawmakers have to spend so many of their days raising money, they don't have time to read some of the legislation they're voting on, she said.
Stock also said the country has to address the Citizens United Supreme Court decision equating campaign contributions to free speech. "There are some things Congress can do about that but we need a recognition on the national level that money is corrupting our politics. Today, foreign money can flood into our election, and because of the way things are structured, we can't tell that."
Stock's campaign funds pale in comparison to about $3 million raised by Murkowski, but Stock said that shouldn't matter with Alaska's limited population. "It's not the case anymore that the person with the most money wins. I think we learned that with (presidential candidate) Jeb Bush. He started the Republican primaries with a massive war chest and it didn't do him any good."
Stock said she is a "big proponent" of early education funding. "We're spending a massive amount of money now incarcerating people... One of the things that's pretty obvious from the studies is that if you get to kids early in life and you get the right education and services, they won't be incarcerated as adults."
Other concerns she cited include income inequality and financing to help young people become invested in commercial fishing.
Stock has not previously held elected office. She said she would "term-limit" herself, if elected. "I'm the kind of person who holds their ground. I'm not a career politician."