UAF Faculty Member Runs for U.S. Congress
by Chris Hawk
UAF Business teacher Jim McDermott is campaigning as a Libertarian for Alaska’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The seat is currently held by U.S. Representative Don Young, who has served in the position since 1973.
“I used to tell my students to take their knowledge to D.C.,” McDermott said. Eventually, he said, one of his students asked him, “Jim, why don’t you do it?”
As a congressman McDermott’s greatest goal would be to reduce corruption from political advocacy groups having control over candidate’s decision making, saying that, “I want to allow representation of Alaskans and not special interest groups.”
McDermott thinks that his running for the last two terms has helped to garner support for the Libertarian Party. “Six years ago the party didn’t even run a candidate, eight years ago they had one percent … I polled 22 percent in the primaries.” Despite weak polling against incumbent U.S. Rep. Don Young, the senior most member of the U.S. House, McDermott thinks that winning isn’t an impossibility.
McDermott served in the United States Air Force as a non-commissioned officer for 22 years, has a B.S. in Occupational Education, an M.S. in Business Organization, and works as a Service Corps of Retired Executives volunteer counselor. He lives with his wife in Fairbanks and has seven children and 13 grandchildren.
Cassidy Glebavicius, UAF psychology student , works as the assistant treasurer for McDermott’s campaign. According to Cassidy, the big issues she notices students care about on campus are ones that she thinks McDermott is a champion of, such as cannabis legalization and homosexual marriage. Cassidy set up a table in the Wood Center to advocate for McDermot’s campaign. On Tuesday, Oct. 28, Glebavicius was next to the UAF GSA’s table, where she had a chance to engage in discussion about the rights of those in the LGBT community. Cassidy asks, “Why is the government in our bedrooms?”
Glebavicius especially likes McDermott because, according to Glebavicius, “He doesn’t trash talk”.
McDermott wants to run government like a business and seek a reduction in obsolete laws, regulations and bureaucracies. “If we want to restore people’s trust in government we need to make it leaner and more effective,” McDermott said, “Common sense has been lost in D.C.”
Federally, too many of the administrative bureaucracies are being used for purposes that they shouldn’t be, according to McDermott. “The IRS has been used to a point of abuse,” McDermott said. Given the opportunity to change the tax system McDermott would, “implement a flat tax system, the administrative department of which would be user friendly.”
McDermott is in support of Ballot Measure 2, a proposal that would legalize marijuana in the state.“I was invited to an Alaska Cannabis Institute workshop in Anchorage for people who were going to be starting businesses after Ballot Measure 2 passes, which I think it will,” McDermot said, “Of course as a small business person this has me really excited.” But he said, that even if the measure passes, we’re not over the fence yet, “Federal law trumps state law. This is a good step but we need somebody in Washington D.C.”
“When I’m reading what Washington D.C. puts out, the best way to increase [funding for medicare] is to increase our taxes. I’m just not a big fan of it,” McDermott said last Thursday at the Alaska AARP Debate for Congress at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks. “I’m pro free market…and I think that would be a way to really help all of our programs.” To improve healthcare in general, McDermott said, “The right answer is choice.”
McDermott thinks there’s an easy fix to the widening wage gap and the disappearing middle class, “How about we allow our harvesting of natural resources.” He says that endeavors such as the construction of a pipeline would add to middle class jobs. “ So much opportunity is out there but there’s so much regulation holding us back.” McDermott says that, “We’re in a global economy here. If we keep putting all the restrictions on ourselves… then we will find ourselves as a second class economic strength.”
McDermott didn’t begin in the Libertarian Party. He started out as a Democrat and switched to Republican as he got older, but didn’t feel either represented him. Finally, McDermott found the Libertarian Party. “Like goldilocks and the three bears. It took three to find the perfect fit,” he said.
“Libertarians used to be a fringe group and now…I’m almost boring-normal, but I have a passion for free markets and liberty.”
According to McDermott, his campaign is only possible through, “lots of help.”
McDermott’s connections throughout the state help to run his campaign in remote places, an important aspect of campaigning in Alaska. I rely on my friends and family,” McDermott said, “A lot of the growth we’re seeing … its due to their support.”
Despite the successes that McDermott is seeing, he doesn’t think he’ll be making a career out of being a congressman. “I like to say that I’m a statesman, not a politician,” he said.