ELECTION 2018: House District 13 candidate Q&A

Friday, July 27, 2018 - 10:33

There are four candidates running for the District 13 State House seat, which represents parts of Eagle River, Chugiak and JBER. The seat is being vacated by Rep. Dan Saddler, who is running in the Republican State Senate primary. There are three candidates in the Republican primary: Craig Christenson, Bill Cook and Nancy Dahlstrom. The lone candidate in the Democratic primary is unaffiliated candidate Danyelle Kimp. The primary election will be held Aug. 21. The following are answers to several questions posed to each of the four candidates hoping to represent District 13 in the Alaska State House:

House District 13

Republican Primary Candidates

Craig Christenson

Age: 54

Place of birth: Greensburg, Pennsylvania

Hometown: Chugiak-Eagle River

Occupation: Retired USAF Colonel; Retired Physician; Stay at Home Dad

Family: My wife Sandy is a teacher for the Anchorage School District at Winterberry Charter School. I have two children, Lane (12) and Katie (10). Both play ice hockey for the Mustang Hockey Association. Lane is active in Boy Scout Troop 230 in Eagle River. Our family enjoys hiking, camping, fishing, shooting, ATVing, and everything Alaska has to offer. Lane and I also enjoy hunting and dog mushing.

Previous public office held (if any): Deputy Commissioner, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

What qualities make you the best candidate for the office you seek?

I am not a politician. I am a husband and father who is fed up with what has been going on in Juneau. I want to make Alaska better for Alaskan families. During my time in the U.S. Army and Air Force, I rose to the rank of Colonel and was competitively selected three times to command squadrons. I am a leader and not a follower. I will work for the interests of the people I represent and will not be swayed on how to vote by House leadership or special interests.

What is the most important issue currently facing Alaska and how would you address the issue in the Legislature?

As I talk to the residents of Chugiak-Eagle River, the primary issues which are on people’s minds are the increase in crime, the Alaska Legislature’s inability to rein in spending, and the taxing of the Permanent Fund Dividend three years in a row. Crime has increased as a direct result of Senate Bill 91, which focuses more on decreasing prison populations instead of holding criminals more accountable. SB 91 needs to be repealed and replaced with tougher crime laws. Regarding the out of control spending, I support enacting a spending cap and a comprehensive audit of the budget to determine which programs can be reduced, eliminated, or combined. Legislators need to treat the budget the same way their constituents handle their household budgets, and not spend money they don’t have. As far as the PFD is concerned, I strongly believe the PFD belongs to Alaskans, and should be calculated and distributed according to the historical formula which is already in state statute. By withholding billions of dollars from Alaskans’ PFDs, the governor and Legislature has hurt Alaskan families and the Alaskan economy.

What (if anything) should be done to help improve the Alaska economy?

Unlike many legislators, I do not feel we can tax our economy back to health. The tax on our PFD has hurt Alaska’s economy and slowed the recovery from the recession. The governor and Legislature have removed billions of dollars from our economy by decreasing our PFD. I am also against instituting an income tax or sales tax for the same reasons. No economy can tax itself to prosperity. Alaska is a resource rich state with huge mineral, timber, and petroleum reserves. The governor and Legislature need to be supportive of natural resource development through partnerships with private businesses and corporations. The Legislature also needs to attract new development and investment by adopting a more business-friendly approach by decreasing the excessive and burdensome regulations which increase the cost of doing business.

What (if anything) should the Legislature do to reduce crime in Alaska?

Since SB 91 was passed 2 years ago, we have seen crime increase exponentially. This “hug-a-thug” law has been a miserable failure. The band-aid fixes passed by the last Legislature do not do enough to address crime. SB 91 needs to be repealed and replaced with tougher sentencing laws where criminals are held accountable for their actions. The “catch and release” mentality of the current administration has cost Alaskan families dearly. It is time to enact tougher laws so Alaskans feel safe in their homes and on the streets once again.

Do you agree with the Legislature’s decision to cap this year’s Permanent Fund Dividend at $1,600 and use a portion of the Alaska Permanent Fund’s investment earnings for government services? Why or why not?

Absolutely not! This will be the third year in a row where the PFD has been decreased at the expense of Alaskan families and the economy. The historical calculation for the PFD is defined by state statute and has been ignored by the governor and Legislature. These politicians feel they can spend your money better than you can. The historical calculation has always allowed for a portion of the Permanent Fund earnings to be used for government, which I agree with. What I disagree with is the arbitrary cutting of the dividend paid to Alaskans. All Alaskans should share in the wealth provided by Alaska’s resources. I support a constitutional amendment which protects the PFD at the historical calculation. I also support returning the withheld portions of the previous PFDs to Alaskans. The majority of Alaskans’ money has not been spent and is still in the Earnings Reserve. Those billions of dollars which have been withheld from the economy have had a direct impact on Alaska’s recession.

Bill Cook

Age: 74

Place of birth: Texas

Hometown: Eagle River/Chugiak (on the border)

Occupation: Attorney

Family: Wife — Mary Alice Askins Cook, three sons: Travis, Justin and his wife Kat, and Adam and his wife Katya, and their son Isaac Augustine Dennie Cook (six days old!)

Previous public office held (if any): Municipal Court Judge (appointed right after licensing by Texas Supreme Court) — youngest judge in Texas at the time; Assistant District Attorney, Anchorage DAO; Assistant Attorney General for the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Trust Territory of the Pacific Island; Magistrate, Alaska Court System — appointed by presiding judge of the Third District; Counsel for the Alaska House Judiciary Committee — appointed by Judiciary Chair, Representative Ramona Barnes; Municipality of Anchorage Board of Ethics — appointed by Mayor Tom Fink; member, vice chairman, and chairman

What qualities make you the best candidate for the office you seek?

I have the experience, as a former prosecutor and as a former judge, and having had the good fortune to work for House Judiciary Committee under Ramona Barnes, perhaps the most amazingly effective legislator in state history, who possessed a deep concern for the safety of all Alaskans. At her direction, using my past experience, I wrote comprehensives bills significantly locking up criminals and punishing crime — homicide, rape, property crimes. Rep. Barnes obtained the complete approval of Gov. Hammond for these bills, and practically singlehandedly saw that they passed into law. At the end of my time with her, responding to the quadruple murder of the four children at Russian Park by Charles Meach, I authored the “Guilty But Mentally Ill” law which is still in force and was a response to many murderers pleading “Not Guilty By Insanity.”

Neither of my opponents have this background, and the one who happened to have held this office some time ago — but left office for a new job with the governor — does not hold a record indicating that inclination or ability.

What is the most important issue currently facing Alaska and how would you address the issue in the Legislature?

Our greatest problem is the crime wave all over Alaska, encroaching on Eagle River/Chugiak as it moves across into the Valley, a result of the Legislature’s passing SB91 and its refusal so far to completely repeal that foolish work. So-called “Conservative” Republicans in the House in 2016 had zero attorney members with direct experience enforcing criminal laws, much less in writing effective criminal laws. See my response below as to “what the Legislature should do,” and some of my proposals, attached here.

What (if anything) should be done to help improve the Alaska economy?

I do not possess the silver bullet that will build a gas pipeline and raise the price of natural gas. I do know that the ratio of spending by the Alaska government to the population — compared to other states — is obscenely outrageous. Every intelligent being knows that one who continues to spend what s not there, and not live within his or her means, will someday pay the piper. Why is it that our Legislature and our governor wish to continue on this crazy path, leading us down to the abyss? I say cut the spending and cut it now. The government must learn to govern frugally, not lavishly on the basis of a pipeline full of generously priced gas that is not there.

What (if anything) should the Legislature do to reduce crime in Alaska?

Repeal SB 91. Now.

Create district attorney offices independent of politically appointed Atty. Genl., where the district attorney is responsible only to the public — at his or her election.

Transparency in criminal sentencing in particular, so that newspapers like yours does not simply report that X was sentenced to 20 years for rape, when in fact X will be out in very few years. The attorney general would issue press releases with the calculated likely actual time to be served by an Unclassified or Class A felon. As for these proposals and others, I am attaching more specifics.

We need tougher bills punishing crime, not laxity and wishful thinking as occurred with SB 91. SB 91 reminds me of Nancy Pelosi saying that they were not sure what was in the Obamacare bill, but would find out after it passed. Unfortunately, that seems to be the same philosophy of the Legislature which passed SB 91.

Do you agree with the Legislature’s decision to cap this year’s Permanent Fund Dividend at $1,600 and use a portion of the Alaska Permanent Fund’s investment earnings for government services? Why or why not? No. The evidence is clear that this governor and his Legislature not only morally betrayed Alaskans by hijacking their permanent fund, but that this government uses that money to continue to live beyond its means, still postponing the piper.

It just keeps coming — now … the governor’s new $95K + benefits man, from Michigan — the ”Innovation Stakeholder Change Manager.” What the heck is going on?

Nancy Dahlstrom

Age: 60

Hometown: Eagle River since 1989; Alaska since 1980

Occupation: Mother, Grandmother, Community-Activist

Family: Husband, Kit; 4 children (all graduated from Chugiak High School) and 9 (with another one on the way) grandchildren

Previous public office held (if any): Alaska State House 2003 - 2010

What qualities make you the best candidate for the office you seek?

I love working with people — together we can move our communities and state forward.

Community Minded: We live in one of the best communities in Alaska. It is my mission to help keep it this way by supporting our local businesses, working with residents on individual and community growth projects and listening to our resident’s needs.

People Person: One of the very best rewards about representing our area is working with you - the residents of District 13 (Eagle River, Chugiak, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson & Anchorage residents). I love people! Helping constituents navigate state government, finding a solution to a problem, celebrating our military men and women or sharing in a community project is a driving force behind my candidacy.

Proven Record: I walk the walk … and my record proves it. Voters don’t have to wonder if my word is good. They know it. My history shows I follow through on my promises. I’ve defended your permanent fund dividend, fought for a balanced budget, worked tirelessly to maintain a strong military presence here and throughout Alaska and promoted community projects. I am proud of my record and will continue to fight for all residents of District 13.

What is the most important issue currently facing Alaska and how would you address the issue in the Legislature?

Future prosperity.

There isn’t one issue that is ‘‘most’’ important. If that were the case, we could tackle a single issue and make everything alright. This would be like dealing with our problems in a vacuum. It just doesn’t work.

We must focus on all the relevant issues that impact Alaska’s future prosperity: our children’s education, reducing crime & promoting the safety of all our residents, and ensuring our private sector economy (jobs) can grow and prosper.

What (if anything) should be done to help improve the Alaska economy? Any city or state with a rising crime rate, finds it difficult to improve and grow its economy — it is all related. A safe secure community allows for thriving children, encourages active healthy families and invites business investment.

That is why I believe tackling our crime rate is essential to the overall growth and well-being of our state.

What (if anything) should the Legislature do to reduce crime in Alaska?

To attack any issue, it’s essential we understand what is going on. We must bring together local and state police, prosecutors and community members to identify the criminal growth areas. Knowing this will allow us to structure and write new laws to combat the growing crime rate. Our residents deserve to feel safe in our neighborhoods, in our schools, and on our streets.

While House Bill 314 (passed this past year) did fix some of the issues created in Senate Bill 91, we still need to review any and all current laws and make any necessary changes. It’s our responsibility to provide law enforcement the tools to do their jobs, suggest punishments commiserate with the crime and focus on the areas of concern. Now is the time to put all resources possible to fight our growing crime; otherwise, Alaska’s overall prosperity is in jeopardy.

Do you agree with the Legislature’s decision to cap this year’s Permanent Fund Dividend at $1,600 and use a portion of the Alaska Permanent Fund’s investment earnings for government services? Why or why not?

The public’s trust is broken by the actions taken in Juneau. We need representatives who listen to you and act on your behalf.

My record is clear … I will defend your dividend. Alaska law, passed decades ago, provides a formula to determine each year’s dividend. This isn’t and shouldn’t be discretionary. It is the law. I will absolutely fight for the people’s annual dividend amount to be determined as it should be and not at the will of the governor or Legislature.

Next, we must protect the corpus of the permanent fund to ensure it is solvent for generations to come. This is concerning because this hasn’t been done in recent years. I am committed to ‘protecting’ the corpus.

Finally, only once the dividend has been determined in accordance with the law and the corpus has been protected can there be any discussion of how the remainder of the earnings reserve is used.

Democratic Primary Candidate

Danyelle Kimp

Age: 43

Place of birth: Pontotoc, MS

Hometown: Eagle River

Occupation: Retired Army, business owner, and educator.

Family: Wife (Keiba, 20 years), Son (Orion, 17), Son (Noah, 8)

Previous public office held (if any): NA

What qualities make you the best candidate for the office you seek?

Throughout my military career I have become a well-rounded leader with a proven track record of fostering strong coalitions and partnerships. I believe this, along with my drive to succeed and perseverance makes me the best candidate for House District 13.

What is the most important issue currently facing Alaska and how would you address the issue in the Legislature?

Unemployment! It affects everything. We must spur job growth. Alaska has the highest unemployment rate in the nation. At 7.3% unemployment, Alaska is almost 2% higher than the next highest, West Virginia, at 5.4%. This is unacceptable and must change. I would consider streamlining or outright eliminating legislation that hinders growth, and putting forth measures that would instead spur job creation where we need it most, in small businesses and the renewable energy sector. The more small businesses we have employing more people the better we can defend against potential economic hits; like global oil price-drops, corporate layoffs, or large corporations just packing up and leaving town. Also, the federal government did Alaska no favors by giving bigger tax breaks to large corporations instead of to small businesses or individual citizens. Tax breaks should benefit small businesses and individuals before large corporations.

What (if anything) should be done to help improve the Alaska economy?

Spur job growth!

What (if anything) should the Legislature do to reduce crime in Alaska?

Spur job growth!

Do you agree with the Legislature’s decision to cap this year’s Permanent Fund Dividend at $1,600 and use a portion of the Alaska Permanent Fund’s investment earnings for government services? Why or why not?

No. There are too many families in Alaska that depend on the PFD in order to make ends meet. This overburdens our population and exacerbates an already troubled economy where unemployment is the highest in the nation.

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