Hers may be among the most unfamiliar names on next month’s ballot, but Democrat Debra Call says she’s not just along for the ride as Mark Begich’s running mate in the gubernatorial race.

A Dena’ina Athabascan, Call filed for the office on June 1, the last day to formally declare intent to run for office. She sailed through the Aug. 21 primary unopposed and a Begich-Call ticket became official a few weeks later. Call has never held political office and she added she’s still a bit surprised to suddenly be “front and center.”

“It’s not what I planned,” she said. “But it’s something I’m glad I did because I’m now seeing I have a lot contribute, and I have many contacts throughout rural Alaska.”

Call grew up in Anchorage and spent most of her professional career in rural economic development. She also worked helped oil and gas industry companies with their Alaska Native-hire programs. Call says state government and the private industry need to continue paying attention to rural areas.

“Working in rural Alaska, I realized they are usually the first group around the state that gets hit with any economic impact that is not good and sometimes slower to get the economic impact when it is good," she said. "The resources that we depend upon as a state are not on the hillside they are not in downtown Anchorage. They are out in rural Alaska. So taking care of rural Alaska creates that balance in the state that makes us remember that we are all here working toward that same goal.”

Call also served as the director of operations at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. There, she helped Alaska Native youth rediscover their language, tradition, and culture. These students could then teach tourists who visit the center. She said she watched the youth build confidence in sharing their culture with those visitors.

Funding public education is an area that needs renewed attention from the state, Call says.

“When a teacher is not paid well and the class sizes are extremely large, and we get so many of our teachers from outside the state, we’re not evening growing our own,” she said. “That gives me a lot of red-flag warnings about what the future is going go look like for us. And it doesn’t feel good.”

If the Democrats win, Call would become the fourth Alaska Native to hold statewide office. The others were former Lt. Govs. Loren Lehman, Byron Mallott and Val Davidson.

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