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‘I wrote a couple of them’: Conservative candidate for Anchorage School Board addresses inflammatory social media posts

Published: Feb. 10, 2021 at 8:03 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A candidate running for an open seat on the Anchorage School Board claims she’s been the victim of a smear campaign after screenshots of inflammatory posts and comments that appear to be from her Facebook account have been circulating on social media.

While she admits to being responsible for some of the posts, she says others were altered to make her look bad.

She refuses to specify which ones.

A conservative voice

Eledge is running for School Board Seat B against Kelly Lessens, Marilyn Stewart and Mark Cox.

During an interview for a standard candidate profile that will be part of Alaska’s News Source’s municipal election coverage in March, Eledge described herself as being a conservative voice, something she does not feel is currently well represented on the Anchorage School Board.

“I don’t shy away from tough discussions or decisions, gets me in trouble, but most certainly don’t,” she said.

Eledge has served as the president of the Anchorage Republican Women’s Club and in December, she cast a vote for Donald Trump as a Republican elector for Alaska in the Electoral College.

Eledge was originally running on a slate of four candidates.

In a joint Facebook post on Jan. 20, the group — Pierce Blewett, Sami Graham and Kim Paulson along with Eledge — announced they had filed to run for four seats up for grabs on the Anchorage School Board.

But on Feb. 2, Blewett withdrew from the race for School Board Seat G. Two days later, Sami Graham released a statement separating her bid for School Board Seat E from Paulson and Eledge’s campaigns.

“We think my message will be clearly delivered if I part ways from the slate and focus on running a solo campaign,” Graham’s statement said in part.

Eledge said the candidates were at first hoping to share one website and save money, but when Blewett had to withdraw, that gave them an opportunity to regroup and run their own races.

“Now I’m just focusing on me and they’re focusing on theirs,” Eledge said of the split campaigns, adding, “but yes, we all share the same values.”

According to their campaign website, Eledge and Paulson are running as a team. Paulson is running for School Board Seat F.

Screenshots

In late January, screenshots of Facebook posts and comments that appear to be from Eledge’s account started circulating online.

The screenshots in question appear to demonstrate Eledge flouting pandemic health safety measures and criticizing Muslims, people of color and Alaska Natives.

One post, dated Sept. 20, 2020, refers to the first two Muslim women to serve in the United States Congress as “Ungrateful Witches” and states that they hate America.

Another, dated March 4, 2018, reads, “Gay marriage, transgender…wanna bet pedophile relationships are next.”

A comment appearing on someone else’s post dated June 28, 2020, says, “You know what bothers me worse? The entire bush getting everything and having no tax and almost everything paid for them.”

A selfie showing Eledge and her husband unmasked, onboard an airplane was posted on Sept. 23, 2020, with the caption, “Hurry before the stewardess sees us with our masks down!!”

Another post from that same day reads, “Gotta love the baby boomers Most of us at airport With masks hanging down our faces!! We look at each other, laugh and say this is a crock of s---!! Yeah we obviously raised some p------! Maybe it was the ones our age wearing the masks that raised such wimps!! Our kids would have and still would get good Tennessee a-- whoopings if they acted like whimps! We raised those ‘free range kids!’ If they survived us they are tough!! Can I get an Amen?”

‘Yeah, I wrote a couple of them’

When asked to address the social media screenshots, Eledge said she “owns” the ones that she wrote but insisted some were edited to make her look bad.

“I found out you can do that in less than a minute,” she said. “You can screenshot something, rewrite it and pass it out.”

Several times during the interview, Eledge refused to say which screenshots she believes were altered.

“As a public figure for a very long time, I expected a smear campaign because conservative candidates are always smeared in the media,” she said, “and with a smear campaign, all you do is call someone names and you want me to waste my valuable time defending it and distract me from talking about the issues.”

In one post, Eledge’s account appeared to have a shared link with the headline, “Tim Keller: If you have White Skin, the Bible says you’re Involved in Injustice.” The post included a caption that said, “How sad that people of color seem to have no self esteem! If so why all the focus on color?”

When asked if she wrote that statement, Eledge replied, “No, I did not.”

When asked if the screenshot of that post was edited, she replied, “I’m not going to respond. It wasn’t even on my Facebook page when I went back.”

The one post Eledge owned up to specifically is the selfie posted on Sept. 23, 2020. She explained she and her husband take a selfie every time they travel, and said the flight attendant snapped the photo for them.

“We were laughing and I said, ‘Hurry up before she sees us!’ We pulled our masks down, she snapped it,” Eledge said.

When asked if the screenshot of the unmasked airplane selfie was the only authentic post among the screenshots circulating online, Eledge admitted she had written some of the others too.

“Yeah, I wrote a couple of them, but I’m not going to go into which ones it was and what I said. But I — there’s a bunch that I did not write, were not even on my Facebook memories and I’m just not going to talk about it. And there were some that were screenshot and rewritten.”

When asked if she could understand why voters would want to know whether she actually wrote the statements shown in the screenshots, Eledge said no.

“I don’t. I think that I know enough people that they’re not going to worry about it,” she said. “Yeah, people want to question that, but you know what, if that’s where we are in this world, that people believe something that is not documented, in our, today’s society, Daniella, there is no way anybody could fight something like that.”

In an effort to verify Eledge’s claims that the screenshots had been edited, Alaska’s News Source requested that she provide the original posts. She did not provide any proof and her Facebook account now appears to have been disabled.

Emails

Alaska’s News Source reached out to Eledge’s opponents, Mark Cox, Kelly Lessens and Marilyn Stewart. All of them had seen the screenshots.

Stewart said she previously confronted Eledge over statements that didn’t sit right with her, and she’s kept emails showing statements she found concerning.

One email provided by Stewart is dated April 10, 2018. It shows Eledge responding to a thread including several Republican lawmakers and public figures and writing about mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse in Alaska villages.

“This won’t be a popular comment but having worked in rural villages for many years you must understand I truly believe most of the homeless are mentally ill. Whether it be born that way or because of later use of alcohol or drugs. The number one cause of mental retardation in the state of Alaska is alcohol. Many of the homeless on Anchorage streets are from the village. Many were born to parents who exhibited or were FAE/FAS,” Eledge wrote. “This is a fact in the state of Alaska. It is not something government or ‘white man’ can solve even though we have tried pouring billions into it yearly.”

She also wrote, “Why have not the Native organizations with their billions done more to help their people?”

Stewart said she found statements in the email to be offensive and described her relationship with Eledge during the years they’ve known each other as, “a very rocky road.”

“The question that people are going to have to ask themselves when they get ready to go to the polls to vote is, ‘When you look at some of the things that Judy Eledge has said, is this someone that you want to represent your children on the school board?’” Stewart said.

Alaska’s News Source received the emails after interviewing Eledge and forwarded the above email to her seeking comment and asked her whether she stands by the beliefs expressed in the 2018 email.

Eledge responded by asking whether Alaska’s News Source would be reporting on inflammatory comments made in the past by two candidates running for Anchorage mayor and attached a testimonial written by someone she has known and worked with for many years.

She did not answer the questions about the email.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct Kelly Lessens’s name after it was mistakenly written as “Mary Lessens.”

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