Maybe it’s how they do things in Washington, D.C. these days. But in Alaska, it’s still against the law to campaign in a publicly funded school during school hours.
Rep. Mary Peltola launched her reelection campaign this week and wasted no time hitting the halls and classrooms of North Pole High School, where she invited students to take pictures with her and where she had in tow a camera crew of two to get campaign material for her fliers and website. She also had her campaign manager Anton McParland, who is also her official office’s chief of staff, making both an official salary of well over six figures and a substantial salary from the campaign.
By Alaska statutes, she appears to have broken the law. Politicians are not allowed to campaign on school campuses during school hours.
The Democrat was accompanied by another Democrat candidate — Fairbanks North Star Borough mayoral candidate Grier Hopkins, who posted a photo to his campaign Facebook page of the two candidates, side by side, unabashedly campaigning during school hours. Although it was not his own campaign event, Hopkins was piggybacking on the representative and may have also been breaking the law, since he used the photo in his social media post.
The event was advertised for the school library, but the two politicians toured the school, popped into classrooms to talk to students and visited the automotive class, where Hopkins took the selfie.
Alaska Statute says school districts that use their facilities for partisan activities during school hours shall be denied funding.
North Pole is a conservative stronghold in Alaska. Of the 6,256 votes cast in the U.S. Representative race during the general election in 2022, Peltola received 1,563.
Thus, it made no sense for Peltola to set up a meet-and-greet in the conservative town, but rather to take advantage of a captive audience of non-voters and their teachers during school hours, to emphasize her affinity for the National Education Association teachers union, which endorses her and provides her with substantial funding. The education industry represented her fourth-top source of campaign funds in 2022 and the NEA supported her campaign with $10,000.