Sharon Jackson cast a nominating ballot for Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention in 2016 because she wanted a candidate “who could absorb the hit” as the country fell off a cliff. Jackson may prove tougher: She’s come back from a stroke in 2015 that left her without speech.

Sharon Jackson believes Alaska can work through its current crisis by restoring power to the citizens of the state.

The Republican candidate for Lt. Governor shared her ideas with the Sitka Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday (7-18-18).

Downloadable audio.

Note: KCAW News will provide similar coverage for every statewide candidate who makes a personal appearance in the community. Sharon Jackson is one of 6 candidates vying for the Republican nomination in the state primary election on August 21, 2018. So far, only one Democrat has filed for the Lt. Governor’s race.

Sharon Jackson at the Sitka Chamber of Commerce on July 18, 2018. A Republican through and through, she believes in bipartisanship, and in not passing judgment. A single mom, she’s raised a son who’s been in business 15 years. “Statistically, he had no chance,” she says. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

Sharon Jackson is a newcomer seeking elected office, but she’s not new to politics. Most recently a staff member in Sen. Dan Sullivan’s Anchorage office, she’s been active in the state’s Republican party for years, and even served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention, where she — like Alaska’s other 10 delegates — was legally bound to cast her nominating vote for then-candidate Donald Trump.

Jackson got out in front of this issue with the Sitka Chamber. She probably is often asked about her support for Trump.

“I thought we were falling off a cliff as a nation, and we needed someone that can take that fall, take that hit, so the people can rise back up.” she said. “So we needed someone who could absorb it and… Lord knows.”

In reality, it’s probably Jackson herself who’s taken the hit: In 2015 she suffered a stroke following oral surgery, and lost the ability to speak. She has clawed her way back. After four days in intensive care, and a week in the hospital, she asked her speech therapist if she would ever be “normal” again, the therapist said no, but she would do things differently, and she would have new perspectives and insights.

This realization has fueled Jackson’s effort to run for statewide office.

“It’s like we’ve been in this box and do things the same way, with the same people, expecting different results,” she said. “We need a new perspective. We need to get back to the pride: Number one in jobs, number one in education, number one place to live — and you know what? We can do that — that’s Alaska.”

Jackson says she believes in diversifying Alaska’s Republican Party. She first came to Alaska in 1983 as a member of the US Army, from her home state of Pennsylvania. She founded the Republican Women of Anchorage, became the vice-president of the Midnight Sun Republican Women’s Club, and later rose to secretary of the state’s Republican Party.

That’s a lot of Republican credentials in a red state, but she’s not anti-Democrat. She believes in the system, and wants it to work better.

“I respect our dual partyship. Because the difference is the power of this country. However, we need to bring back the civility,” she said. “If we can’t communicate, we can’t do anything. There’s no judgments. If I just hung around with people that think as I do, I lose the opportunity to grow. To learn about other people.”

One of Jackson’s primary duties as Lt. Governor, if elected, would be to certify citizen initiatives. Like her faith in small business and in her religious beliefs , allowing citizens a greater voice in government is one of her bedrock principles.

“When people get together and do propositions, that’s something that they’re feeling very strong about,” Jackson said. “I just believe we need to have a vote on everything. From your permanent fund dividend to … how about this fishing situation, right? Everyone should have a say on what’s happening.”

The “fishing situation” is a reference to the widely-publicized protests in Sitka over the renegotiation of the Pacific Salmon Treaty with Canada — a situation that falls squarely within the purview of the governor’s administration. But Jackson is also pro-vote on constitutional matters: Asked by a chamber member whether she would support prayer in schools, she replied that “It’s not the job of the Lt. Governor,” however she wouldn’t oppose a ballot initiative on the school prayer. “Whatever the decision of the popular vote, I will support that.”