Kelly Tshibaka: Alaska Senatorial candidate Kelly Tshibaka (R) paid her first campaign visit to Nome on Monday and Tuesday. Tshibaka arrived to Nome on Monday evening after visiting Koyuk and Shaktoolik.
According to her calendar, she began Tuesday morning by speaking to a high school class at Nome-Beltz, then moved on to lunch, a tour of a mining operation, and a meeting with Kawerak leadership.
During her visit to Nome-Beltz, she spoke to students about running for office, answered questions on oil, gas, and campaign finance, and expressed her thoughts on what leadership means. Tshibaka, a conservative Republican, resigned as Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Administration in March to run for Senate next year.
She worked for 16 years in high-level government jobs in Washington, DC, including chief data officer and assistant inspector general of the US Postal Service at the Federal Trade Commission’s Inspector General office; and as a special advisor at the director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice’s civil liberties and privacy office. She is a Harvard Law School graduate.
Senate Candidate Kelly Tshibaka
Tshibaka is one of nine candidates running for the Senate seat incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski in the 2022 election.
She was first asked about the procedure for running for office. She stated that she has never stood for office before, and that her history is in keeping government insiders accountable, decreasing government, and reducing waste. “Right now, there are a lot of people in government that are hurting Alaska, and I don’t like it,” she said. I decided to get up and do something about it.” Running for office, she argued, requires an examination of one’s motivation, which should not be for the sake of gaining power.
Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Tshibaka. “Trump’s policies were very excellent for our state,” she remarked at the school, adding that she did not want to be endorsed by President Joe Biden. “He’s suffocating our state.” He ran on policies that were anti-Alaska and anti-energy,” she remarked. In a speech about leadership, she stated that her raison d’être is to champion others. “I was bullied a lot when I was younger.” Not just by peers, but also by authority figures, and the reason was because my parents worked their way out of poverty. Another factor was that I was a devout Christian. I decided that if I gain any kind of prominence or power — which took a long time — I want to champion the underdogs.”
“Isn’t it true that when we elect a leader, they’re meant to represent us, re-represent us?” We’re supposed to be people who have a government, not people who have a government. However, when you look at the people that hold leadership roles, you’ll notice that they stumble all over the place and don’t actually represent or serve us.”
When asked what she learned while traveling throughout Alaska, she noted that while the difficulties varied from one place to another, the same themes emerged: people feel neglected, unheard, and unvalued.
When challenged about Alaska Native land claims and defending ANCSA rights, she responded that she would try to “boost corporate profitability.”
Students inquired about her views on oil and gas development in Alaska and alternative energy sources. Tshibaka responded that she had learnt from her travels that residents surrounding the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Utqiagvik were furious “because Biden shut down ANWR.” She stated that by prohibiting reasonable oil and gas production in Alaska, Russia, China, Iran, and Iraq benefit from fossil fuel development. “They have a lot of environmental garbage,” she continued, “and that’s directly harming people here, especially on the west coast of Alaska.”
“We have to deal with the pollution caused by other countries that emit significantly more carbon than we do.” Why not spend energy on renewable energy production, as a student suggested? While she supports renewable energy sources, she believes that they are insufficient at this time and that fossil fuels are still required. “Developing oil locally, which is cleaner and greener, harms our environment less than having it produced in other nations,” she remarked.
In terms of education, she recommended creating a “job pipeline” that would place Alaskan children in “useful post-high school programmes that lead to real jobs in Alaska.” She expressed her sadness as a mother of five children who will have to attend college outside of Alaska. She believes Alaska should provide more trade or technical education. She claims that companies in Alaska are unable to recruit qualified tech graduates. “In Alaska, there isn’t a lot of philosophy [graduates] hiring,” she said.
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“It’s a local challenge, really,” she explained, “but it’s near to my heart because of what my family has gone through.” She added that as a congressional delegate, she would phone state or municipal authorities on a daily basis to identify methods to divert money to initiatives. She then went on to express conservative complaints about the government spending money on bureaucracy, as well as what she learned from talking to homeless shelters in Alaska.
“Money allocated for homeless shelters is diverted to the state,” she explained. “And then it vanishes into the chasm of government.” When the government expands, freedom decreases. As the government disappears, so does freedom. “Easy principle.” Her background, she added, is in government auditing and investigation. She argued that she understands how to track money down to the last penny and that she would ensure that donations go straight to the programme on the ground.
A student inquired about her campaign funding and how she justifies having fundraisers in Florida while attacking Murkowski’s “outside” campaign donors. “Right now, almost all of my campaign finance comes from individuals who are merely giving to the campaign,” Tshibaka stated. “We don’t yet have groups, PACs, or anything like that; we’re just grass roots funded, with Alaskans providing half, if not more, of the money.” The money we spent was centred on visiting rural communities, which is really significant. “How can you represent Alaska if you don’t understand Alaska?” I asked earlier.
She claimed she heard from individuals that Congressman Don Young hasn’t been here in a decade or so, in a jab at him. She would never do such a thing. “We’re going to Alaskans, not expensive parties with fancy people, with the money.” Who will be our leaders will be decided by the ExtraTuff boots.”
“There is a reason why we don’t have really significant money coming in from outside,” she continued. That is something you will have to accomplish later. This election will cost around $20 million, which is the cost of a Senate contest; yet, Alaska does not have $20 million. But for the time being, we’re concentrating on Alaskans and working with Alaskans. Spending time with Alaskans is a top priority for us.”
She discussed her origins and how she lived and worked in Washington, DC after graduating from law school. Her husband, she said, had gotten a position at a legal firm in Washington, D.C. “By God’s help, I was able to get a job at the Department of Justice, where I was able to apply the Alaskan ideal of making government work for the people.” She would work for the federal government in various ministries and departments for 16 years. “I’ve had a lot of experience in DC battling government insiders,” she remarked. “I was never trying to be popular there; it was never my desire.” “The aim has always been to protect Americans, and that’s the goal today,” she told the class, “to get back to doing what I can to protect us, because right now they’re working against us, not for us.”
She claimed that although Trump intended to return federal lands to Alaska, the “Biden administration just decided to steal 60 million acres from us here in the Northwest, and you can’t even subsistence hunt on it anymore.” That is not the case. The Northwest Arctic Subsistence Regional Advisory Council has submitted a Temporary Wildlife Special Action Request, which would close all federal lands within Game Units 23 and 26a to moose and caribou hunters who aren’t “federally qualified subsistence users.” This would impact the non-resident caribou hunting season in Unit 23, and the majority of it in Unit 26A. The decision has been postponed until 2022, with a second hearing scheduled for December 2.
In terms of how long she hopes to stay in office if elected, she said she prefers to pass the baton when she’s “just in position” and wants to mentor a successor. Senator Murkowski and her were throwing jabs over who was a “genuine” Alaskan and who was a “DC insider,” so she turned the debate on its head in that context. “Lisa Murkowski has previously stated that other candidates are unqualified for government since they have only lived in Alaska and are unfamiliar with the DC system; ‘We can’t just have someone show up in DC, they’ll be eaten alive.’ That is partially correct. DC is a completely different planet. In the same manner, if we bring individuals in and teach them about the system, the process, the structures, and the people, we’ll be able to hit the ground running and maximise our value. We have three votes, and we need to make the most of them. That’s exactly what I’d like to have: someone who can just walk in.”
The administrator called for the blue campaign bags imprinted with “Kelly for Alaska” to be removed just as the school bell sounded and class was done, stating that political campaign literature was not allowed on school grounds. “Can we keep the apple?” one student inquired, and the answer was affirmative.