'Independent' Alaska Senate Candidate Flip-Flops on #MeToo Issues

Posted: May 25, 2020 1:30 PM

Alaska Senate candidate Dr. Al Gross, an Independent endorsed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), directly avoided a question on combatting sexual abuse during a Zoom fundraiser last week. Dr. Gross is running to unseat GOP incumbent Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) in November.

Sexual abuse and domestic violence are substantial issues in Alaska, so much so that Attorney General Bill Barr declared a statewide public safety emergency, and allotted $10 million in federal aid dollars to Alaska’s rural communities to combat the sexual violence epidemic. AG Barr’s allotment program created victim-advocacy programs and bolstered Alaska law enforcement’s ability to crack down on these crimes. According to USA Today, 59 percent of Alaska women have experienced some form of sexual violence, whether as an adult, a child or both; 30 percent of those respondents indicated that they could not seek assistance. 

Despite the stature of the issue in Alaska, Dr. Gross deflected a straightforward question on dealing with these crimes, in conjunction with his plan to “reform” the treatment of predators; he deferred to his wife to answer the question, who offered a vague answer during the Zoom meeting:

Zoom Host: “What would you do to reform how the state handles sexual – sexual abuse of minors and women, so common in Western Alaska. How does that fit into a national plan to reform treatment of predators?”

Al Gross: “You know, I’m – I’m not an expert in that field. I’d like to learn more about it. Monica, did you have any comments on that? Well, it’s a problem, for sure.”

Monica Gross: “It’s a huge problem, yeah. And we need, obviously, to support women who have been missing and murdered and support taking care of women who have been abused and it’s a huge, huge problem and it needs a huge, huge solution.”

Dr. Gross’s avoidance of a relevant question is not his first conflict with #MeToo issues. The Senate hopeful and DSCC-endorsed candidate faces backlash from Alaska’s Young Democrats for his choice of campaign manager, David Keith, given his alleged history of abuse, workplace intimidation and sexual harassment. The Young Democrats penned a letter to the state’s party leadership in 2019, expressing concerns about the claims against Dr. Gross’s campaign manager:

“We are writing to call your attention to serious concerns the Alaska Young Democrats (AKYD) Executive Committee has regarding the political campaign of the current Independent U.S. Senate candidate participating in our primary. There are serious allegations of inappropriate conduct and abusive behavior perpetuated by the U.S. Senate’s candidate’s current campaign manager, while on previous contracts outside of Alaska. As you are undoubtedly aware, our political community has a history scarred by abusive and unacceptable behavior directed at women and young campaign staffers, with the perpetrators seeing minimal punishment and the victims finding little recourse-- behavior that could have been prevented with proper vetting and discourse among party leaders...In the Alaska Democratic Party, we all have an obligation to improve campaign culture as a key goal in the broader movement to promote Democratic values.”

Dr. Gross has yet to comment on the allegations nor the concerns surrounding his campaign manager. Similarly, following the trend of establishment Democrats, he has remained silent on the sexual misconduct allegations against Joe Biden; while calling himself an Independent, Gross is endorsed by national Democrats and vowed to caucus with Senate Democrats. 

While avoiding claims against his campaign’s highest staffer, and the Democratic party’s nominee for president, Dr. Gross was fiercely opposed to the confirmation of then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh, less than two years ago. He accused Sen. Sullivan of negligence during the contentious confirmation hearings. 

“When it comes to crimes like rape, being honest enough to find out the truth is important, even if it is 'inconvenient.' I am disappointed to hear that there are those like, Sullivan, who want to get a privileged political ally on the Supreme Court more than they want to hear about whether he tried to rape a young woman, and whether he caused that woman a life of emotional damage. These senators need to reconsider how they are doing their jobs. Sen. Sullivan, you need to reconsider how you are doing yours...Railroading this nomination through will only do bad things. It will likely serve Sullivan's party agenda to weaken a woman's right to choose, and affirm rulings allowing unlimited corporate election spending to buy elections for the most pro-corporate candidates,” Gross wrote in an October 2018 op-ed.

The latter sentences reveal Dr. Gross’s real grievance with Justice Kavanaugh: his jurisprudence; Democrats weaponized the unsubstantiated allegations in order to derail the confirmation of a well-qualified conservative jurist.

Dr. Gross’s selective care for sexual abuse issues, a widespread problem in the state which he seeks to represent in the highest legislative body, is unsurprising for a candidate endorsed by the DSCC. Sen. Schumer’s hand-picked candidates claim to “believe women” reporting such claims when politically expedient, but turn a blind eye when the accused is a political ally. 

The Cook Political Report, Inside Elections and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball all rate this race as “likely” or “solid” Republican.