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Candidate for Alaska House appeared in blackface at a 2012 Halloween party

 GOP candidate for District 6 Mike Cronk, far left, in blackface at a 2012 Halloween party. Second from the right is Taryn Hughes, running for District 5 as a Democrat, who says she is "ashamed" of going to the party.
GOP candidate for District 6 Mike Cronk, far left, in blackface at a 2012 Halloween party. Second from the right is Taryn Hughes, running for District 5 as a Democrat, who says she is "ashamed" of going to the party. (KTVF)
Published: Jun. 11, 2020 at 2:17 PM AKDT
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A candidate for the Alaska House of Representatives appeared in blackface at a 2012 Halloween party in Tok.

Mike Cronk, a retired teacher, is running as a Republican to replace Rep. Dave Talerico, R-Healy, for House District 6.

Cronk came to a Halloween party at the Tok Lodge Bar dressed as Madea, a black Southern matriarch character created by Tyler Perry.

“It was a Halloween party and I was to come to it as an inspiring fictional character that no one would recognize,” Cronk wrote by email. “Madea was created as an inspiring and humourous (sic.) character by Tyler Perry that I enjoyed watching on tv.”

Cronk declined to speak in more detail about whether he thought it was appropriate to appear in blackface or whether he regretted the decision, particularly at a time when nationwide protests have sparked debates on racial injustice.

Attending the Tok party, but not dressed in blackface herself, was Taryn Hughes, another candidate for the House. Hughes is challenging Rep. Adam Wool, D-Fairbanks, to represent District 5 as a Democrat.

“I’m not proud of it, I knew it was out there,” Hughes said by phone of the photos. “This is the process of unlearning, this is the process, it’s ugly, but it’s really important to own it, I own it. I regret it obviously, but I’m not going to pretend I didn’t have some unlearning to do.”

At the time of the party, both Hughes and Cronk were employees of the Alaska Gateway School District. Hughes worked as a media specialist for the district and Cronk worked as a teacher.

Cronk continues to serve on the Alaska Gateway School District Board.

In 2017, Cronk became famous across the country for his heroism during

that left 59 people dead.

The person who shared the photos of Cronk and Hughes with Channel 2 wished to remain anonymous. They said they wanted the photos made public because they didn’t want someone like Cronk representing Alaska in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

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