While Alaska Democrats do not currently have anyone to run against incumbent Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the party is working to allow independents to run on their primary ballot, and they might have an ideal candidate in a Harvard-educated, ex-Republican legal scholar on immigration – Margaret Stock.
In January, the Alaska Democratic Party adopted a rule change that would allow for candidates not affiliated with a political party to run in the state’s Democratic primary.
“There were a lot of considerations that went into it,” said Kay Brown, executive director for the Alaska Democratic Party. “It’s an effort by the party to be more inclusive.”
Allowing non-affiliated candidates to be part of the primary might also be an act of pragmatism, as 54 percent of the state’s voters are nonpartisan or unaffiliated, according to state voter registration statistics from 2015. In addition, in the 2014 general election, independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker merged his ticket to make his Democratic rival, Byron Mallott, lieutenant governor — and won, beating Republican incumbent Gov. Sean Parnell.
“It’s an acknowledgement it’s hard for Democrats to get elected statewide,” said a former Democratic official.
However, the lieutenant governor’s office declined to formalize the rule change, which has led to the party filing a lawsuit challenging a state law that requires a candidate running in a party’s primary to be a member of that party. Brown had positive remarks about Stock, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Military Police Corps.
“Lt. Col. Stock has an impressive background and record and we are looking forward to getting to know her better,” Brown said. “If the rule change is allowed by the Alaska courts, then she would have the opportunity to run in our primary.”
Stock holds an impressive resume outside of her work with the military, having been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, known as a “genius” grant, for her research on immigration and national security, and has taught national security law, constitutional and military law at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
“Legal immigration is a net positive for America but the legal immigration system for America doesn’t work,” Stock told Roll Call in an interview, saying that if the U.S. wants a safe and secure nation, it needs to “let the right people in,” instead of “throwing everyone out.”
Stock said she was registered as a Republican for many years and Federal Election Commission documents show that in the past, she gave to Arizona Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign and to Jeb Bush’s now-failed presidential bid as late as October of last year.
She says she agreed with Bush’s sentiment that the immigration system is “a leaky dam” and said it doesn’t serve economic interests or national security.
“Unfortunately Jeb is no longer running,” she said, adding that she feels the Republican Party has left her behind.
In addition, she dismisses Donald Trump’s proposal to build a wall on the Mexican border to stave off immigration. “It wouldn’t make any difference other than hurting our economy,” she said. “Spending a huge amount of money is purely symbolic.”
Stock also criticized Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States as unconstitutional.
“She understands the pluses and minuses of it,” said Ben Freakley, a retired lieutenant general in the U.S. Army, who led army recruitment during the time that Stock implemented the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, where the armed forces recruit non-citizens with language, medical or other in-demand skills in exchange for expedited naturalization.
Freakley said Stock approached him before she announced her run and that he encouraged her to do so.
“She understands what veterans face,” he said. “She already is a leader.”
Regardless of whether she would be allowed to run on the Democratic primary ballot, Stock does have some challenges. Murkowski has shown herself to be resilient, as was the case when she lost the Republican Senate Primary in 2010 to a tea party challenger and embarked on a successful write-in campaign.
When asked what she would do on immigration, Stock, who has written a book on immigration law and the military, said simply that she would introduce legislation to simplify the process to come to the U.S. legally.
Stock also had harsh words for Murkowski for initially supporting President Barack Obama naming a new Supreme Court justice selection but then backtracking and saying that the next president should be allowed to pick the next justice.
“As soon as Justice [Antonin] Scalia, whom I was familiar with, as soon he passed away, she announced a principled position,” Stock said. “The party leaned in and she caved in.”
Stock said she would be open to running on the Democratic primary ballot if it were possible.