Forum brings out the best in primary hopefuls

Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - 11:12
Candidates play nice in advance of Aug. 28 primary

Candidates in the upcoming Aug. 28 primary elections were on their best behavior during a forum held Aug. 16 at the Eagle River Lions. How good? One even took time to speak up for his opponent.

“If you don’t like me, I think you’ve got a good choice there,” said Sen. Fred Dyson of Democrat Martin Lindeke, who was unable to attend the event. “He’s a pretty neat guy.”

Dyson, who is running for re-election in Senate District F, could afford to be magnanimous since both he and Lindeke are running unopposed in their primaries, which are used to pick each party’s candidate for the November general election.

But with forum rules dictating that candidates talk about themselves — rather than their opponents — the event did have a friendly, no-nonsense feel.

“This has really been a pleasant evening,” said Sen. Bettye Davis, who will face Harry Crawford in the Democratic primary for the right to go head-to-head with Republican Anna Fairclough in the general election for Senate District M.

Davis said she would like to return to Juneau to continue working in the bipartisan Senate majority.

“There are more independents out there than there are Democrats and Republicans put together,” she said.

Crawford said he wants to work toward building a natural gas pipeline.

“What we need more than anything else is a gas line,” he said.

11 of the 13 local candidates made it to the event, which was sponsored by the Sleeping Lady Mountain Lions, Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber and the Eagle River Area Rotary Club. Along with Lindeke, Republican House candidate Glen Eichenlaub (District 12) was also unable to make it.

Eichenlaub is running against incumbent Dan Saddler, who said he’s been an effective legislator during his first term in Juneau and would like to continue fighting to reduce oil taxes.

“We need to create a positive business climate,” he said.

The round-robin style forum asked candidates a variety of questions ranging from what they think the state’s most immediate problems are to what issues are most pressing in Chugiak-Eagle River.

Many of the Republican contenders for contested seats struggled to highlight differences between themselves and their opponents. For example, in the House District 26 race, all three candidates — Larry Wood, Kim Skipper and Lora Reinblod — all said that the state’s oil taxes need to be reduced to encourage development.

“I support changing the ACES tax structure,” Skipper said.

“We need to be more competitive,” Reinbold said.

“We need to do all we can to promote the legacy fields,” Wood said.

Democrat Roberta Goughnour, who will face the winner of the Wood-Skipper-Reinbold race, offered a different take on the oil tax situation.

“We need to look at whether lowering these taxes will actually fill this pipeline,” she said.

In House District 11, Republican incumbent Bill Stoltze is facing fellow Chugiak resident Thomas Connelly, who expressed perhaps the evening’s most controversial opinion when he said he would fight to move the state capitol from Juneau.

“That’s a biggie for me,” Connelly said.

Stoltze, who co-chairs the House Finance Committee, said his record speaks for itself, and that he’s often run afoul of his fellow legislators when it comes to fighting for Chugiak-Eagle River projects.

“I won’t make an apology for that,” he said.

During closing statements, Fairclough took the time to thank the roughly 100 people who packed the Lions Club.

“Thank you for taking the time to learn more about the people who put their name on the ballot,” she said.


Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727.

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