Anti-Begich Ad in Voter Guide Prompts Bill to Ban Parties From Booklet

The state Division of Elections took some heat this year for publishing an attack ad against Sen. Mark Begich within the pages of the official voter guide. Now, Rep. Les Gara, an Anchorage Democrat, wants to ban partisan ads in the guide, a booklet that’s mailed to every voting household.

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“People hear enough in the form of political attack ads during an election. I don’t think it’s appropriate for attack ads to find their way into a state funded voter guide,” Gara said.

By statute, political parties are allowed to buy up to two full-page ads, for $600 apiece, and the Division of Elections has no say over the content. Until this year, the parties mostly used the space to list their party platforms. But now that the Republican Party of Alaska has used the space for a more aggressive message, Gara says other parties are likely to do the same.

Republican Party Chairman Peter Goldberg says he got a few angry complaints about the anti-Begich ad, but he’s not convinced it had much impact, since a lot of voters don’t read the guide. Goldberg says he just wanted to make sure the party used its ad space effectively.

“When someone suggested a negative ad, why not? The objective of a political party is to win an election. And you take advantage of every opportunity you can to look for opportunities to sway voters,” Goldberg said.

Gara says he plans to pre-file the bill and will be looking for co-sponsors from both parties.