Fairbanks Mayor Jim Matherly made headlines earlier this year when he vetoed an ordinance that would have extended equal protections to the LGBTQ community and now, as he heads into the local election, says he would also support anti-transgender “bathroom bill” legislation.
Matherly was the lone candidate for Fairbanks mayor to respond to the conservative Alaska Family Action’s “Values Voter Guide” for the Fairbanks-area races. The four-question guide asks if the candidates would “support a policy to require that restrooms, locker rooms, etc. in public buildings be designated for and used exclusively by persons of the same biological sex?”
Matherly answered yes.
The description falls under similar anti-transgender legislation that have been labelled “bathroom bills” aimed at limiting access to public facilities based on a person’s biological sex. North Carolina made headlines for passing such a statewide law and for the ensuing boycott that cost the state billions of dollars in economic activity, according to one tally.
Matherly also said he didn’t support the equal protection ordinance, which he vetoed, or an ordinance that permits on-site consumption of marijuana in Fairbanks, which he didn’t veto. He also said he’d oppose the use of public funds for abortions.
The response was publicized by the Hrrrl Scouts, a self-described “social club for feminist malcontents,” today in a post to its Facebook page, which described the Alaska Family Action’s voter guide as “their who’s who of who’s the worst of Alaska local political candidates.”
“Y’all, this is a bathroom bill. Bathroom bills are anti-trans policies based around the easily and long-ago debunked hateful belief that trans folx pose a danger to our Women and Children™ in bathrooms,” the group wrote. “It’s transphobia—plain and simple.”
Anchorage voters defeated a similar proposal, which had the backing of Alaska Family Action, in the 2018 local elections.
Why it matters
Matherly’s main opponent is Kathryn Dodge, the Democrat who came within a vote of tying Republican Rep. Bart LeBon in last year’s general election. Dodge announced that she would be running to unseat Matherly shortly after he announced his veto of the equal protections ordinance but has refrained from making those issues a key tent pole of her campaign.
That’s not stopped Matherly from going all-in a push to the far right. In an interview with far-right Republican-friendly Must Read Alaska, Matherly described the race as a battle for what he sees as Fairbanks’ conservative identity.
“The stakes are pretty high in my opinion. Fairbanks is a pretty conservative town, and I hope to emulate those conservative values” he said.
Matherly has likely overestimated the city’s conservative leanings.
Fairbanks not only broadly voted to legalize marijuana, one of the issues raised in Alaska Family Action’s voter guide, but it soundly defeated an initiative that would have banned already-operating marijuana businesses from the city.
In last year’s local elections, Fairbanks voters elected two transgender women to public office—one to the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly and one, Fairbanks Councilwoman Kathryn Ottersten, to the Fairbanks City Council. Ottersten was one of the key backers of the equal protection ordinance, fueled in large part by her own personal experience of transphobic discrimination and violence.
Dodge has already far out-raised Matherly, nearly doubling what he’s raised from contributions, according to the 30-day reports filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission.
The local election is Oct. 1 and early voting is already underway.