‘They experienced the horrible animosity that this created’: New group looks to get rid of ranked-choice voting

When Art Mathias speaks, he commands a stage with the confidence earned after years of public speaking.
Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 9:53 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - When Art Mathias speaks, he commands a stage with the confidence earned after years of public speaking.

In 1997, Mathias was in a snowmachine wreck that caused ongoing pain in his shoulder and other injuries. He says he was told he had two years until he’d die, but that through forgiveness, faith and overcoming fear he was able to fully recover. His story has led to countless interviews, web videos as well as guest speaker invitations.

He is also the founder and president of Wellsprings Ministry off Sentry Drive in Anchorage.

“We believe that it is God’s will to forgive all our sins and heal all our diseases (Psalms 103:2-3). But He cannot bless us in our sins and our unbelief (Deuteronomy 28, Mark 6, and James 1). So therefore, we teach people to shout ‘Hallelujah’ when they learn about a sin in their life. The first step in dealing with a sin is recognition of the sin. Then we can repent and be cleansed,” reads the ministry’s website.

Now, Mathias is leading an effort to have ranked-choice voting on the ballot in 2024 — but this time to get rid of the system, which was approved by voters in 2020, 51% to 49%, and used for the first time in 2022.

A Federal Election Commission report lists Phillip Izon as the records keeper/agent and Diamond Metzner as the treasurer for Alaskans for Honest Government, which Mathias says is also associated with Alaskans for Honest Elections.

Calls to Izon and Metzner went to voicemail. The recording says the number is for Leading Light Advisors, which describes itself as having clients in the “Arctic Circle to NASA and many places in between,” including recall and statewide petition campaigns.

Mathias Jaime Donley and Izon are the primary sponsors.

“We have helped clients in the Arctic Circle to NASA and many places in between completed work for thousands of businesses, politicians, & non-profit groups in the Pacific Northwest. With experience in various industries, from commercial banking, multi-million dollar real estate development projects, website design, data management, & artificial intelligence. We have the experience to help you today,” reads the company’s website.

People involved with Leading Light are now helping Mathias try to get rid of ranked-choice voting.

“The will of the people is now changed after they experienced the horrible animosity that this created,” Mathias said last week, about his creation of the group Alaskans for Honest Elections.

Former Gov. Sarah Palin was the first to sign the initiative. She lost her congressional race against Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola following the ranked-choice count.

“She hates ranked choice,” Mathias said.

Mathias says his group has already raised about $130,000 for the initiative and he told Alaska’s News Source that he was on his way to pick up another big check that afternoon. Asked who the check was from, Mathias replied, “I’m not going to tell you that. You’ll see it on the APOC report.”

Mathias says his campaign is a grassroots effort led by Alaskans, but he also says he has been speaking with people who either have worked or still work with the Heritage Foundation and Americans for Prosperity — both are conservative, Outside groups.

Americans for Prosperity says it has not been in talks with Mathias.

Mathias points to the influence of Outside money that was pumped into the first campaign as one reason he doesn’t trust the new system.

“Democrats are pitted against each other, Republicans are pitted against each other,” Mathias said. “And all we do is make people mad. And people stop voting.”

Former lawmaker Jason Grenn, the executive director for Alaskans for Better Elections, ran the 2020 campaign to institute ranked-choice voting.

“You don’t have to be so party loyal because of our new system,” Grenn said. “You can vote for who you want to. You can vote for the person in Alaska, which is really what Alaska’s political history has been. We vote for nonpartisan candidates, we’ve done write-in candidates, we have a long history of voting for the person over the party. And this new system just allows for that freedom in a much better way.”

He says about $7 million was needed for that campaign, which included paying people to gather signatures. He says Alaskans donated as well as Unite America in Denver, Colorado, the Institute for Political Innovation and the Arnold Venture Fund.

He says Alaska’s large population of Independent and nonpartisan voters, plus a history of voting for people instead of a party, were some of the reasons for the campaign and its success in Alaska.

He pointed to Peltola and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski campaigning for each other during the last election.

“You kind of see that maybe the power is shifting, that big organizations, political parties, they have less power, less influence, they can’t control our elected leaders as much when it comes to voting for certain policies,” Grenn said. “And that can be scary. A change is scary, especially when you see it shifting to normal everyday Alaskan who doesn’t have a large amount of donation power or a large amount of influence. This is really about giving that power back to voters.”

For Mathias to be successful the group must first gather 100 signatures from qualified registered voters. He says he doesn’t expect help from either the Republican or Democratic parties.

“One of the great symptoms of American decline is that we don’t know the outcome of elections by midnight of Election Day. That’s Third World kind of nonsense,” Kevin Roberts, the president of the Heritage Foundation, tweeted on Nov. 10 in response to an article condemning ranked-choice voting.

Mathias insists this recent effort will remain local.

“We three. We run it. We’re Alaskans,” Mathias said.