Saturday, March 31, 2007

West Anchorage Assembly Candidate Sherri Jackson Questioned About Her "Membership" In The Alliance For The Separation Of School And State

Updated February 27th, 2008 to include new link to Sherri Jackson's campaign website.

On March 27th, 2007, during the West Anchorage Assembly candidates' debate broadcast on KAKM's "Running" program, Sherri Jackson was criticized by one of her opponents, Democrat Matt Claman, for having signed an on-line petition begun nine years ago by the Alliance for the Separation of School and State. However, Claman attempted to misrepresent her as a "member" of this organization. Original story from KTUU Channel 2.

"As a member, you have proclaimed that you, Sherri Jackson, favor ending government involvement in schools. Do you favor ending government involvement in schools?" Claman asked.

Jackson denied membership. "I'm not a member of any alliance. I guess I signed something a long time ago and I thought it was separation of church and state possibly. I don't know, but I'm all support the public school system. Like I said, my kids are there, I'm a product of it and I'm not supporting and or a member of any alliance," Jackson responded during the debate.

On March 28th, after further researching the issue, Jackson confirmed that, nine years ago, while homeschooling her children, she did sign a credo that said the governor should not tell parents how to educate their children. "There was a fear factor amongst a lot of people here all across the nation. Families were being thrown in jail down in Kansas and Missouri because they homeschooled. Literally being thrown in jail and it's all documented and so we got together, a lot of families here in Anchorage to sign a credo that says government by no means can tell you how to educate your children," Jackson explained. She further explained that she had forgotten about it until Claman brought it up during the March 27th debate, but that now, upon further reflection, she no longer agrees with their proclamation and will request the removal of her name from the website.

Claman claims that this is a valid issue. "I found that her having signed this pledge, according to Web site was a real political difference," Claman said. "I think if that is her view, I felt it was an important issue for voters to know about and that's why I raised it at the debate last night."

Jackson recently advertised a fundraiser co-hosted by the Alaska Republican Party's assistant treasurer and chairman of the Anchorage Road Coalition, Frank McQueary, and has received help in her campaign from Jack Frost, whom Begich defeated in last year's mayoral race.

Officials for the Fresno, CA-based Alliance said its proclamation is only an ideal and that its overall purpose is to support homeschooling, private schools and parental choice. Their website lists 190 signers from Alaska -- the highest per capita of any state.

Commentary: By targeting Sherri Jackson for his most pointed criticism to date, Matt Claman, who is backed by Mayor Mark Begich, not only tends to validate Jackson's contention that she is the "real conservative" in the West Anchorage Assembly race, but also grants implicit recognition to her status as "the candidate to beat", a status reinforced by a volume of supportive letters received and published by the Anchorage Daily News in their Letters to the Editor section. In contrast, the other "marquee" candidate, Jim Bailey, who bills himself as a "moderate", is primarily the anointed "darling" of the "conservative" majority on the Assembly, with Assembly members Dan Sullivan, Paul Bauer, Dan Coffey, Dick Traini, and Ken Stout having assisted in his fund-raising efforts. This does not imply that Bailey is not qualified for the Assembly, but merely that his candidacy has generated little passion due of his phlegmatic personality and because his exhaustive background in professional education would seem to make a school board candidacy much more logical. The only notable assisting Jackson in her race is former mayoral candidate Jack Frost, who hopes to mobilize more than just the "tiger prawn" consituency on her behalf (for Outsiders, Jack Frost is a paid spokesman for New Sagaya, which sells tiger prawns).

The fourth candidate in this race, Zareena Tran Clendaniel, ironically was a student at West High School at the same time Jim Bailey was its principal. She professes great respect for Bailey and identifies him as an inspiration toward her own activism. After graduating from West High as a valedictorian, she earned a master's degree in education from Stanford University and now works part time as a researcher for the University of Alaska Anchorage Institute of Social and Economic Research. She is married with two young children. A Vietnamese immigrant, Clendaniel has added little of substance to the race, saying that her primary goal is to represent "diversity" on the Assembly.

"I was just looking at the numbers of the Anchorage School District, how 44 percent of the children are nonwhite, and I think strongly that they need a role model in this community," Clendaniel said. Nobody has challenged her on this statement, although I'm sure that the diversity wolves would have howled long and loud had former Anchorage resident and National Alliance member David Pringle run for an Assembly seat back in 2002 because "56 percent of the children are white and they needed a role model, too". More circumstantial proof that diversity is inherently anti-white and that ordinary whites are permitted no significant role in its definition. While Clendaniel is to be commended for her interest in the welfare of the community, she clearly is a starter candidate who's in it primarily for the experience. Running for elective office, even as an "also-ran", can increase one's knowledge and understanding of the methodology of government, the pulse of the community, and thicken one's own skin in preparation for future activism and other life challenges.

The candidates differ on other issues, too. Jackson supports the statewide advisory vote to further support traditional marriage by cutting off spousal benefits to the domestic partners of gay public employees, while Bailey, Claman and Clendaniel oppose it, although Clendaniel wants a narrow legal definition of what constitutes a "long-term couple".

Discussion of a municipal sales tax has once again surfaced. Bailey said he fully supports a citywide sales tax to diversify our revenue stream and reduce local property taxes. Jackson also supports a sales tax, but only as a last resort, while Claman and Clendaniel both say Anchorage voters have already rejected sales taxes, and that the Assembly should take heed. Sherri Jackson is also the one candidate in this race who unequivocally supports the Knik Arm Bridge.

Matt Claman also ran for the Assembly in 2005 against Dan Sullivan. Click HERE (then scroll down to page 7) to view his responses to a candidate survey in PDF format by the Success By Six child advocacy organization.

Sherri Jackson also ran for the Assembly in 2004, finishing behind marquee candidates Pamela Jennings and Dave Werdal, but ahead of Woody Sanders and Joe Deldonno. Click HERE (then scroll down to page 48) to read the actual transcript of the Success By Six debate in PDF format.

Also click HERE to review a recent fairly in-depth Anchorage Daily News article about the West Anchorage Assembly race, to include links to video interviews with each candidate.

Conclusion: Many residents of the West Anchorage Assembly district might believe that since the district is already represented by a conservative, Dan Sullivan, that it might be useful to offset him by electing a liberal, Matt Claman. That might not be a bad strategy - except there's a strong chance that libertarian Midtown candidate Jason Dowell, while not necessarily strong enough to win an Assembly seat outright, may be strong enough to pull sufficient votes away from Dan Coffey to cause Elvi Gray-Jackson to be elected the Midtown Assembly member. Combine that with the outside possibility that Sheila Selkregg might upset Ken Stout in the East Anchorage race, and the spectre of BOTH a liberal mayor AND a liberal Assembly presents itself. If that happens, Anchorage, open up your wallets WIDE!

Thus the election of Sherri Jackson to the Assembly becomes of paramount importance. The pervasive grass-roots support enjoyed by Jackson throughout the community, combined with her lengthy and active community service on a local community council underscores her meticulous preparation for the job. And considering her long-term employment as a checker at Carr's, she understands first hand the economic uncertainties and challenges confronting working families much better than the more elite candidates, and is likely to allow them to keep more of their money at tax time. Sherri Jackson is the logical and smart choice.

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