It’s official. Former Anchorage Democratic Rep. Les Gara has entered the race for governor.
Gara had formed an exploratory committee earlier this summer after retiring from the Legislature ahead of the 2018 elections and now joins a race that includes Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, independent former Gov. Bill Walker and Libertarian Billy Toien.
In his announcement, Gara focused his criticism squarely on Dunleavy for leaving oil tax credits untouched while pushing to overspend the state’s savings accounts. The state’s oil tax credit and per barrel credit program, which results in more than $1 billion in foregone revenue every year, have long been a target of progressives.
“The Governor has ducked his responsibility to solve our budget crisis, and just spent away our savings because he thought that was easier,” Gara said. “That’s over $2 billion we’ve lost and Governor Dunleavy still chooses to increase a massive budget deficit with unaffordable tax credits for multinational oil companies. His corporate welfare puts the burden of a massive deficit on the backs of Alaskans, our schools, lost construction jobs and our nearly empty savings accounts.”
While former Gov. Walker’s entrance into the race earlier this week didn’t mention Dunleavy by name, Gara’s announcement didn’t shy away from attacking the Republican.
“Alaskans deserve better than a Governor who’s attacked our schools, damaged our University, and emptied $17 billion in state savings as a state senator and Governor,” Gara said in a prepared statement. “I want an Alaska people can believe in again, where we create good paying jobs and provide good job training instead of taking it away. As a fisherman I want to protect our wild salmon and trout from the toxic Pebble Mine. Governor Dunleavy has sided with foreign mine owners instead of our own commercial, sport and subsistence fishermen and women.”
The 2022 election will be like no other in Alaska history. Under the voter-approved election reforms, the governor’s race (along with the Congressional and legislative races) will be conducted through an open primary system where the top-four finishers advance to a general election race that will be conducted with ranked-choice voting. Another new change is that gubernatorial candidates will personally select their running mate instead of having it decided through a separate primary.
Gara has not yet announced a running mate and said via text that he’s still considering his options. He said his goal is to find a running mate that would represent Alaska.
“I’d like a ticket and a cabinet that looks like Alaska,” he said.