Amidst the fear and dread of big money controlling elections in America today, it’s good to know that grassroots organizing and hard work can still empower We the People.
On June 1st, in rural, S.E. Alaska District #34, Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, or “JKT”, threw his hat in the ring to challenge eight-year incumbent and former lobbyist, Representative Bill Thomas. Thomas was Co-Chair of the powerful House Finance Committee and had designs on Speaker of the House. The seat was technically up for grabs due to redistricting, but Thomas had served four consecutive terms representing most of the communities that would vote in the upcoming election – save one big new addition: Sitka, Alaska. Sitka, with 8,500 people, was now the largest population center in the new district. JKT grew up in Sitka. He debated for Sitka High School. He gave cello concerts in town. He knew he could make a strong showing at home.
From the moment he committed to run, Jon was in high gear. No roads connect much of District #34, which spans 250 + miles, so he visited 14 villages and small towns by boat or small plane. In fact, he went to each one twice, and knocked on every door. He stayed for days, got to know people, and they got to know him. In one of the villages an elder remarked that they hadn’t seen a candidate in twenty-two years. By voting day, Jon had won half the votes in the villages and made it a race.
His platform was a promise to listen to everyone, to be resolutely opposed to tax breaks to Big Oil, and his belief that greater support of education was the best way to help people today and tomorrow.
The race was close. The last few weeks many people were nervous about losing a local voice that had brought home a lot of bacon. But in the end, 32 more people saw the election as a critical referendum on the future of politics and voted 23 year-old Kreiss-Tomkins into public office.
Grassroots and hard work can still make democracy work.