With the fight over the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, attention is turning to state races that could play key roles in responding to the potential conservative swing for the court.
Gubernatorial candidates Mark Begich, Mike Dunleavy and Mead Treadwell have sounded off on President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the court, painting opposing stances between the race’s lone Democrat and leading Republicans.
The one candidate to not yet jump into the fray is independent Gov. Bill Walker.
While Republicans Dunleavy and Treadwell praised the nomination of Kavanaugh–whose nomination many see as a serious opening to overturning Roe v. Wade and undoing the Affordable Care Act among many other issues–Begich warned his confirmation raises “concern over the future of civil rights and liberties.”
“Understandably, there has been particular concern about women’s rights and the future of Roe v. Wade. Let me be clear. Governors will become the last line of defense to protect women against these extremist attacks,” he wrote on a Facebook post. “I will always protect a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions. Here in Alaska, we value our personal privacy and do not want the government intervening in our personal decisions – including health care.
Begich went on to reference the 1970 Alaska law that legalized abortion in Alaska, three years before the decision was reached in Roe v. Wade. Begich has a track record of supporting abortion rights and Planned Parenthood, making him the only candidate for governor to have openly expressed support for abortion rights.
“As Governor, I will fight every day–as I always have–to uphold civil rights and liberties for all Alaskans including a woman’s fundamental right to make her own health care decisions,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, both Treadwell and Dunleavy had praise for the conservative nominee, who’s already began meetings with U.S. senators.
“The United States desperately needs a Supreme Court Justice who will uphold the Constitution and protect the natural rights and liberties of American citizens. I’ve always believed that government’s job is to protect our rights, not to take them away,” Treadwell wrote on a Facebook post. “Likewise, Alaska needs officials who understand state and federal law. If elected Governor of Alaska, I promise to appoint Judges who understand the responsibility of the court, as outlined in our state’s Constitution. I will ensure that integrity is sustained and that justice is delivered.”
Dunleavy’s statement also praised Kavanaugh’s record, but zeroed in on guns and federal overreach. He also noted that for many Trump supporters, the Supreme Court was a key issue.
“Mr. Kavanaugh has an outstanding career and has a long record of decisions to review in his upcoming confirmation process. Alaskans will want to know where he stands on core principles in the Constitution, such as our Second Amendment rights and federal overreach. I look forward to our senators giving him a full and respectful vetting as he moves through the advice and consent of the Senate. I’m very optimistic about his prospects for being confirmed.”
Walker so far has been quiet about the nomination of Kavanaugh, neither issuing a statement through his official office or campaign. It’s likely a tricky balance for the governor who’s banking on the support of progressives while also maintaining his personal opposition to abortion.
In 2014, he touched on his beliefs in a candidate questionnaire with the Alaska Dispatch News, but ultimately said he would support existing protections for abortion rights as they’re the “laws of the land.”
“I hold a deep conviction in the sanctity of life and am thus pro-life. As governor, I will place my hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the laws of the land. In reproductive matters, those laws grant a woman’s right to choose. I will implement Medicaid expansion, including Denali KidCare, in order to protect women and children. By expanding the availability of contraception, the abortion rate should also diminish.”
The governor has been largely quiet about his opposition to abortion while in office, and hasn’t had many opportunities to get involved on the issue because the Alaska Legislature’s bills on abortion have yet to make it to his desk.
His administration did, however, defend in court a 2013 law that sought to limit Medicaid coverage for abortions to ones determined to be “medically necessary” according to a list devised by the Alaska Legislature. The list drew criticism for not only intervening between woman and her doctor’s health care decisions, but also because it omitted any mental disorders from consideration.
Planned Parenthood brought a lawsuit against the law, successfully defeating it in Superior Court in 2015. The state then appealed the case in 2016 to the Alaska Supreme Court, where it was briefed and argued, but no decision has been yet made on the case.