Politics in the Last Frontier

Clement ’19, Alyse Galvin, and me

“We have a lot more in common than we don’t,” said Alyse Galvin, an independent candidate for Alaska’s sole U.S. Congress seat. It was the final day of my internship with Alyse’s campaign and, waiting on an order of eggs Benedict with a few strips of bacon on the side, I sat down with my candidate and her campaign manager, former Groton house prefect Allie Banwell ’12, to have a conversation.

For three weeks, I learned how to write memos regarding Alaska’s industries, conduct political research, analyze surveys, keep track of campaign finance records, and appreciate ’80s rock ’n’ roll. After getting my driver’s license on the last day of spring break, I also spent a lot of time making wrong turns in Anchorage’s labyrinth of streets, but as I became more confident on the road, I also became more competent in my role with the campaign. On the second day of my internship, Alyse declared her 2020 candidacy for Congress. After narrowly losing an election to Don Young, Alaska’s House rep since 1973, she was more determined than ever to run again, and not only bridge the partisan divide on Capitol Hill, but in Alaska as well.

Right from the start, Clement Banwell ’19, a fellow intern, and I were thrust into positions of responsibility and trusted to organize and aid many of the early initiatives of the campaign. Our time together overlapped for a week and a half, and in between cataloging thank you notes, setting up campaign signs, and scrutinizing the office for an elusive box of labels, we would slip out for lunch and talk politics over a City Diner milkshake or a cheeseburger from Tommy’s. While we had our differences on policy, there was so much more that brought us together than kept us apart. Compromise and agreement are key to any friendship, and they are paramount to Alyse Galvin’s campaign too.

Alyse, a strong proponent of public education—which she described as the “core of democracy”—campaign finance reform, and jobs, jobs, jobs—is a lifelong Alaskan and the mother of four. At breakfast, I took the opportunity to ask her about her thoughts on the importance of listening to both sides of the political aisle, and she enthusiastically replied. “Big pieces of legislation need cooperation,” she said. “We need to come to the table with an open heart…Team America haha.”

Allie Banwell echoed many of the same sentiments. Following her time at Groton, Allie continued on to Yale and afterward received a fellowship in Alaska that involved rural journalism. Intrigued by the Alaskan political scene however, she partnered with friends and began a company to manage electoral races across the state. Eventually, Allie came into contact with Alyse—who she described as “a different type of candidate”—and “the rest is history.” Like Alyse, Allie criticized the “increased polarization” of our two-party system and media, and when I asked her if any Groton instructors or courses helped cultivate her love of politics, she commended John Lyons and his Court and Constitution class—remarking that he was “good about elevating both Republican and Democratic voices in the classroom.”

While Congress is divided on issues from immigration reform to the economy and from climate change to abortion, it is clear that politicians are excited about the youth. When I brought up the importance of the next generation in healing our political climate, Alyse and Allie both smiled. “It’s yours. The future is yours,” Alyse declared. “Share that enthusiasm with [the youth], that they have power.”

Allie nodded her head. “Show up. Show up to vote. Show up to volunteer. Show up to things that you care about.” She stressed, “And don’t do it alone.”

Though I learned so much over the span of my internship, my three biggest takeaways from my time with Allie, Clement, the Galvin family, and the many volunteers I was lucky enough to meet, would be this: Café Amsterdam has the best eggs Benedict in Anchorage, bipartisanship can only be achieved by listening to the voices of all people—regardless of their party—and lastly, but arguably most importantly, the teenagers of today will be the leaders of tomorrow. It is up to us to be there for our democracy; it is up to us to be there for each other.