A Grizzly-Fighting, Independent Doctor From Alaska Could Help Democrats Turn the Senate Blue

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Dr. Al Gross’ marketing campaign movies are like a mixture between a actuality T.V. industrial and Dos Equis’ “Most Interesting Man in the World.”

A deep voice states that the Alaskan native was “born in the wake of an avalanche” and killed a “grizzly bear in self-defense.” He “prospected for gold” and supplied up an opportunity for donors to affix him for “an Alaskan adventure” whereas he was snowboarding down a mountainside.

You would not peg the person in your display screen for a wannabe-United States senator.

But not solely does Dr. Gross, an orthopedic surgeon who has turn into a well being care coverage wonk, need to turn into simply that, he additionally needs to do it in opposition to greater odds: As an unbiased in a state that has not elected one to Congress since 1906.

In a Dr. Gross-inspired journey—an adrenaline twist he would approve of—Democrats need to the unbiased as a possible lynchpin to assist them reclaim management of the higher chamber for the primary time since 2014.

“I’m not a career politician, though I grew up in a political family. I’ve been around politics for most of my life,” Dr. Gross, whose father was a Democratic Alaskan legal professional basic for a Republican governor, advised Newsweek in a telephone interview. “It wasn’t until four or five years ago I considered stepping up to run.”

Dr. Gross, who is also a industrial fisherman, is gunning for Republican Senator Dan Sullivan’s seat. With Gross lately out-fundraising his opponent, the state’s political make-up and the absence of a Democratic candidate, the unbiased has caught the attention of the Democratic Party. He has snagged endorsements from the state and the nationwide occasion.

A Grizzly-Fighting, Independent Doctor From Alaska Could Help Democrats Turn the Senate Blue
Dr. Al Gross, an unbiased, is operating in opposition to Republican Senator Dan Sullivan in Alaska’s Senate race. Courtesy of the Gross Campaign

And if he’s elected, Dr. Gross is all in to caucus with the Democrats, identical to the Senate’s present two independents—Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine—that means Democrats could be one seat nearer to flipping the higher chamber. Democrats must win three GOP-held seats if former Vice President Joe Biden wins the election or 4, if President Trump is re-elected.

Dr. Gross additionally would love a management function with Democrats to deal with well being care points, ought to he win.

“I am not happy at all with the Republican Party because they supported Trump in his disdain for public health officials,” Dr. Gross advised Newsweek. “Democrats recognize there was a fiscal emergency for all these unemployed people.”

The majority of Alaskan voters are unaffiliated with a political occasion, which might bode nicely for Dr. Gross. The state has had simply eight senators since they had been admitted to the union in 1959: 4 Democrats and 4 Republicans. Sullivan eked out a victory over Democratic incumbent Mark Begich in 2014 by simply 2.2 p.c—or 6,014 votes.

“I think that that could be a really interesting match-up,” a spokesperson for the Senate Democrats’ marketing campaign arm, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), advised Newsweek. “We endorse people we know are going to be rooted in what is right for their races. I think he’s going to represent a point of view from his state. That’s important.”

Republicans are favored to keep up management of the Senate, in addition to Sullivan’s odds at holding his seat: The non-partisan Cook Political Report labels the race as strong Republican.

Still, Democrats are creating some trigger for concern amongst Republicans. Dr. Gross is considered one of 9 challengers who outraised their rival GOP senators within the first three months of the yr. He additionally raked in more money than Sullivan within the ultimate quarter of 2019.

“We take nothing for granted, but we certainly feel good about the campaign’s position,” the DSCC spokesperson stated. “It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to flip, but it shows you the opening.”

DSCC declined to say what sources—if any—they plan to pump into the race as election day attracts close to.

Vulnerable GOP senators are in a precarious political spot. Facing powerful ballot numbers on how Americans really feel the president has weathered the pandemic and if he needs to be re-elected, Republican lawmakers battling for their very own re-election should steadiness supporting Trump but not showing wanting to endorse the administration’s sluggish response to the virus and shortages on issues like private protecting gear and testing kits.

At a lunch on Capitol Hill with GOP senators this week, Trump privately inspired members in a wavering speech to “get tough” on Democrats forward of November as he touted his ballot numbers.

“He actually was pretty proud of where his numbers were,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) advised reporters afterward. “It was going to be a pitched battle leading up to the November election, and he was encouraging all of us to get in the fight and not get pushed around… He admonished all of us to be just as tough.”

But there’s additionally dangerous information for Dr. Gross: the lengthy absence of an unbiased in Alaska’s congressional delegation, regardless of unaffiliated candidates performing higher on the state stage. And though his previous two fundraising quarters have eclipsed Sullivan’s, his complete money readily available is lower than half the first-term lawmaker, with $2 million in comparison with $4.5 million.

In addition, Republicans view Dr. Gross’ determination to run as an unbiased somewhat than a Democrat as political ammunition.

A Grizzly-Fighting, Independent Doctor From Alaska Could Help Democrats Turn the Senate Blue
Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) attends a listening to titled Oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency within the Dirksen Senate Office Building on May 20 in Washington, D.C. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty

“Clearly, the national Democratic agenda is inconsistent with the views and needs of Alaskans,” Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee that works to get Republicans elected, advised Newsweek.

Sullivan argued that Dr. Gross will not be a real unbiased on the subject of his political alignment however somewhat calls himself one “in label only.”

“If you look at the national Democratic Party, almost all their policies—anti-resource development, anti-oil, anti-gas, anti-military, anti-Second Amendment—that’s what my constituents care about and most of Alaskans care about,” Sullivan advised Newsweek.

Dr. Gross lobbed criticism again at Sullivan.

“Sullivan has very little do with Alaska. He doesn’t have deep roots like I do,” the physician contended. “He has no solutions other than the status quo for Alaska.”