Alaska Democrats lash out at US House candidate Al Gross — the same candidate they endorsed in 2020

Al Gross joined a rally for the protection of abortion rights last week. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

The Alaska Democratic Party is thoroughly done with independent candidate Al Gross, an orthopedic surgeon who is running for U.S. House. 

In a Facebook post Monday the party called Gross a “proven loser.”

“He’s not a Democrat and he sure as hell doesn’t share your Democratic values,” the post says, “but pandering Al Gross still has the audacity to beg for your money after saying he’d caucus with Republicans.”

The post even points out that Gross finished fourth out of five candidates running in a hospital board election in Petersburg last year.

a Facebook post from the Democratic Party
(Facebook)

It’s a remarkable take down, because just two years ago, the party endorsed Gross in his run for U.S. Senate. Gross raised a record $19 million and lost to Republican Dan Sullivan by almost 13 percentage points.

What set the Democrats off was a story in the Anchorage Daily News last week in which Gross didn’t commit to organizing with House Democrats and suggested he might caucus with whichever party is in the majority.

Democratic Party Executive Director Lindsay Kavanaugh said delegates at the party convention in Seward this weekend were appalled.

“We’ve sort of been sitting back saying, ‘Can we have a good-faith partnership with this person?’ And he’s made it absolutely clear that he is not a Democrat,” Kavanaugh said, “and that he’s not going to caucus with the Democrats — or doesn’t know, at this particular point in time — and doesn’t see value in the people that donated to his campaign and worked for him last cycle.”

Gross, through a campaign consultant, declined an interview request. His campaign issued a statement saying political parties don’t deliver for Alaska.

“Unlike many of my opponents, who have tied themselves to one party or another, the only group I plan on representing and working for when I get to Washington is the Alaskan people,” Gross is quoted as saying in the statement.

His campaign said the state party is mad because it’s not making any money off Gross now. Campaign finance reports from the 2020 election show the Gross campaign and affiliated committees transferred almost $300,000 to the state party.

Kavanaugh, though, said it was because of the party and its endorsement that Gross raised $19 million, most of it from outside Alaska. 

“We highly encourage people to vote Democrats,” Kavanaugh said. “I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: These are people you don’t have to question their values. You don’t have to question if they’re going to change positions just to get elected.”

Meanwhile, Sullivan’s former campaign manager, Matt Shuckerow, said he’s not surprised that Gross has angered the Democrats.

“He continues to try to sell this idea that he’s an independent but the reality is, Al Gross is just a political opportunist who can’t really get his story straight,” Shuckerow said.

Gross, though, has assets that count, especially as one of 48 candidates on the special election ballot. After his $19 million campaign, Gross has statewide name recognition. He’s shown he can raise money, and he’s got a lot of his own he can contribute. His campaign says he’s raised “a considerable amount” for his current bid for U.S. House and will soon be running ads.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.

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