Ethan Berkowitz is in politics for one reason.
“I want us to be the people we say we are,” Berkowitz said.
The Democratic candidate for governor used phrases like pledge of allegiance, liberty and justice for all and land of the brave to describe the reason he is passionate about politics during an interview at a local coffee shop.
“In this state and in this country, we’ve got to do a better job of making those words real again,” he said.
Berkowitz is running against incumbent Gov. Sean Parnell in the Alaska gubernatorial race. His campaign has centered around his five part “Alaskan Ownership Stake” plan, which includes a new plan for the gas pipeline, lifetime gaming licenses and other initiatives he believes will allow for Alaska to become more self-reliant.
Those plans can be found on his campaign website, as can Berkowitz’s campaign commercial in which he criticizes his opponent, stating Sean Parnell has been “rolled.”
Berkowitz believes he can get a substantial portion of his proposals passed within a year in office. Part five of his plan, “Restoring Accountability,” pledges monthly updates, Facebook and Twitter updates and governor scorecards Alaskans can fill out and return.
Another part of his plan is to decrease the corporate tax rate, which he says will promote business and stimulate the economy. That proposal has drawn criticism, as has Berkowitz’s party affiliation.
Recent articles in the Anchorage Daily News and the Anchorage Press labeled Berkowitz as a “true-blue republican.” Other criticism has stemmed from a statement Berkowitz made during the 2008 campaign.
“But for me, it doesn’t matter if it is Obama, O-Begich or O-Berkowitz,” he said.
During that campaign year, Berkowitz also supported Obama’s bid for the presidency. When asked about these conflicting criticisms, Berkowitz laughed it off saying he uses common sense economics and his business experience to guide him.
“The ideas that make for a successful enterprise are the kind of ideas that transcend and eclipse party affiliation,” Berkowitz said.
Speaking about party affiliation, Berkowitz stated that The Tea Party is a response to entirely dysfunctional government and a rejection of partisan politics.
“Partisan politics is all about who’s going to win instead of who’s going to lead,” he said. “The political system and the way it has evolved, it is so dysfunctional it can’t get anything done.”
Berkowitz believes his years in the Alaska State Legislature and as the Democratic leader have given him the skills to overcome that dysfunction.
“Without giving away all of my secrets, I was in the state Legislature for ten years,” he said. “And to be able to be governor where you can apply pressure at pressure points, it would be so easy to get things done.”
Interestingly, he calls on a famous quote from President Ronald Reagan, who said, “there is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
“What’s really critical for achieving anything is it doesn’t matter who gets credit for them. I don’t need credit for these ideas, other people can take credit for them, we just need to get things done,” Berkowitz said.
One of those ideas is a universally available pre-school, which is one of Berkowitz’s top priorities. At a projected cost of $5-10 million, he says the program would save Alaskans money over time by investing early in education. Families with young children would benefit as well, because it would double as a part-time daycare, said Berkowitz.
Education is an important issue for Berkowitz.
Berkowitz wants to make University of Alaska a top notch university by creating a core of excellence in specific subjects that he says Alaska should be experts in, such as expertise in the arctic and renewable energy, as well as native cultures.
Berkowitz says UAA students should vote for him because he has strong ties to the university. He is alluding to his wife, Mara Kimmel, who teaches in the Political Science Department, as well as his support for new campus buildings.
But the primary reason students should vote for Berkowitz?
“I am firmly committed to the idea that we need to have a quality institution of higher learning in Alaska.”