In Chris Bye’s favorite campaign photo, the libertarian US House candidate rips open his shirt to reveal a t-shirt that reads, “Do good recklessly.”
After fourth-place Republican candidate Tara Sweeney abruptly dropped out of the U.S. House race in November in Alaska, Bye will hold a spot in the state’s first four primary elections, an act that will place him alongside Democratic candidate Mary Peltola and Republicans Sarah Palin and Nick Begich III. in the running for a two-year term in the House.
Bye, a fishing guide from Fairbanks, spoke about his campaign on Friday while waiting to take his next client fishing. He said his photo sums up his message.
“I mean, we don’t have to be Superman to do good. I mean, I can just be a fishing guide and pick up trash along the way. It’s not complicated,” said he declared.
Bye, a former US Army officer deployed in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, said he wasn’t wealthy and didn’t have a traditional political background, but that doesn’t mean that he cannot do the job as Alaska’s sole delegate in the United States House of Representatives.
Born in Oxford, England, to an Air Force family, Bye said he ‘moved every two or three years’ growing up and went to two different high schools before joining the US Army. and go to college.
He served in a variety of roles including as an infantryman, in armor and as a cavalryman before his career took him to Alaska with the 172nd Infantry Brigade.
While deployed to Iraq, he said he wrote frequently to the Alaska congressional delegation.
“I would say, ‘Why am I in Iraq? For example, can someone tell me why you voted to send us here? Because there is absolutely no constitutional urgency for us to be here,” he said.
He said he was disappointed with the “really dumb, canned responses” he received.
“I just knew that I didn’t fit either party (Republican or Democrat),” he said.
On a subsequent fishing trip with a fellow officer, the other man gave him a copy of Ron Paul’s book, “Liberty Defined.”
Paul was the Libertarian Party’s candidate for president in 1988 and espoused a philosophy of limited government intervention. Reading Paul’s book “completely changed the way I look at governance,” Bye said. “Overnight, I realized I had been part of the problem by settling for the lesser of two evils.”
Bye retired from the military in 2017 and remained in Fairbanks, but did not run for office until this year. The decision came with a heavy cost: Bye had to give up a civilian job in Fort Wainwright because federal employees aren’t allowed to run for office.
The inspiration behind his decision, he said, was the passage of the federal infrastructure bill, known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Bye was unhappy with the cost of this measure, which was supported by former Congressman Don Young. He briefly considered running as a Republican or Democrat, but decided to run as a Libertarian after receiving an email from the party.
“They welcomed me with open arms, even though we have some differences,” Bye said.
One example, he said, is drug policy. Bye supports maintaining restrictions on certain controlled substances, such as fentanyl.
Responding to a Beacon candidate questionnaire, Bye praised the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, but said birth control and other medications should be available “to everyone without a doctor’s prescription.”
He advocated restrictions on deep-sea trawling and phasing out the practice to reduce bycatch of salmon.
Responding to questions from Ballotpedia, he said his “primary objective”, if elected, was to expedite the transfer of federal lands to individuals and the state.
On his website, Bye advocates a 10-15% reduction in federal spending and a 15% reduction in the number of federal employees.
Over the phone, Bye said that if elected, instead of the hunting trophies and memorabilia that adorned former congressman Don Young’s office, he would “go down to IKEA…and we’ll have the biggest fucking table – because we represent Alaska. – and we’re going to put as many seats around this table as we can, and everyone, every Alaskan is welcome to sit at this table.
“Because I’m not just a representative for the people who voted for me, but for everyone, even those with differing opinions,” he said. “I mean, if we can’t be brave in front of people who have different points of view, our future generations, they’re going to suck.”
Bye acknowledged he faced a tough campaign around November. He has received little media attention so far, his competitors have raised far more money for advertising and he is on course to finish with less than 1% of the vote in this month’s primary election.
Still, he said, it’s important to him not just to run, but to be seen as a candidate at the level of Republicans and Democrats who also finish in the top four.
“I’m just a fishing guide, but if we don’t have normal people there, Alaskans are stuck with the status quo,” he said. “And the status quo so far has failed us, miserably.”