Three candidates will appear on the Aug. 28 primary ballots in District 30, which stretches from Homer to Kasilof, and includes Funny River.
On the Republican ballot, Jon Faulkner is challenging incumbent Paul Seaton. Elizabeth Diament is running for the seat as a Democrat.
Going into his sixth race to represent Homer and the lower Kenai Peninsula in the House, Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, said he still likes the work.
“I’m still enjoying the job and learning a lot about each one of the various issues,” Seaton said.
He’s running again — this time against a well-funded opponent, Homer businessman Jon Faulkner — because Seaton thinks he brings a good perspective to the House.
“There are few legislators that dig deeply into the analysis underlying complex bills, and to avoid unintended consequences, you need some people willing to do that,” he said.
For example, on House Bill 110, a change in the oil and gas structure, in 2011 Seaton was one of two legislators to vote against a bill favored by Gov. Sean Parnell. Seaton said his analysis showed Parnell hadn’t looked at the bill’s effect on new oil fields and a further loss in state income.
That vote cost Seaton a higher ranking from the National Federation of Independent Business, a low ranking that Faulkner has criticized. Seaton said he got the NFIB endorsement in 2010. His vote on the oil tax bill cost him NFIB support, he admitted.
“I went to the bottom of the list, but the problem is the oil tax bills would have devastated the economy,” Seaton said.
He also got a low ranking because he opposed an NFIB-backed change in the cruise ship head tax that would have benefited Juneau and other Southeast ports over Homer and Seward.
With his children grown and on their own, Seaton and his wife Tina don’t find serving in Juneau disruptive to family schedules.
Looking back at his career, Seaton said he’s proud of accomplishments like a bill moving the state toward a prevention of disease model in health care. Seaton is a big advocate of the health benefits of vitamin D supplements for people living in northern climates.
He also cited a change in fisheries laws that allows setnet operators to drive fish to canneries without staying at setnet sites at the same time. He also helped pass a bill that allows fisheries to combine catches on transporters. A commercial fisherman, Seaton has cut his tender fleet back from four ships to one.
“I guess the other thing I’m happy about is the gas line,” Seaton said. “I think that’s going to be for the southern Kenai Peninsula the biggest economic boom that we’ve had in the last 30 years.”
Seaton worked through three sessions trying to get a legislative grant passed to build a natural gas pipeline from Anchor Point to Homer. After Parnell vetoed or partially vetoed two grants, the governor let stand this year an $8 million grant. Faulkner also supports the gas line, but said Enstar Natural Gas should have paid to build it.
“After 30 years of waiting and not being economic, it’s time to get off the dime and protect the citizens with the economy,” Seaton said.
Faulkner has cited his business success as one of his main qualifications for office. Seaton said running a business is different from serving in the Legislature.
“Business decisions are just made differently,” Seaton said. “It’s not trying to get 21 people to agree and work through the compromises you need to get the best product in the law.”
“But I don’t mean to be negative,” Seaton also said about Faulkner. “It’s always good that voters have a choice. That’s a voter’s decision to get to make.”
Along with lower energy costs and preventative health care, Seaton said his issues are fiscal responsibility, education and responsible resource development.
An issue he’s hearing from voters is roads. Seaton said he’s glad to see projects proceeding like chip sealing East Skyline Drive, a process where gravel is mixed with asphalt to keep dust down and roads smooth without rolling asphalt.
He’s also hearing voters talk about health care.
“People are concerned about health care and wondering what’s happening in the state,” Seaton said. “That will be an issue and we’ll see how it develops.”
Redistricting didn’t influence Seaton’s decision to run for re-election, but it has changed his campaign strategy. When Seward was in the district, Seaton could plan meetings on the east side and stay overnight there.
“I’m driving a lot more,” he said. “When it’s Ninilchik, Coho, Funny River, you’re not that far away. You put a lot more time on the road.”
In the Aug. 28 Republican Party race for House District 30, Homer businessman Jon Faulkner hopes to do to Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, what Seaton did to Rep. Drew Scalzi in 2002: defeat a multi-term incumbent in the primary.
Faulkner, 51, was born and raised in Alaska and has lived in Homer for 23 years. Faulkner touts his business experience as one of his major accomplishments that qualifies him to represent the new District 30. He bought Land’s End in 1998, turning it from a property worth $750,000 and generating $1 million in season revenues to a year-round, $20 million facility that includes an upscale, seaside condominium complex and employs 65 year-round employees with $6 million in revenues.
He’s most proud, though, of raising a good family with his wife Sara.
“I worked hard at it. I’m proud of my kids, proud of my accomplishments,” Faulkner said.
Several things came together to make this a good time for him to run, Faulkner said. First, his children are grown and on their own, which helped make his wife supportive of his campaign. Second, Faulkner’s businesses are running well with good staff. Faulkner owns Land’s End Resort, the Van Gilder Hotel in Seward and Kenai Landing. He recently sold the fish landing portion of Kenai Landing to Great Pacific Seafoods. Third, Faulkner said he and others had grown concerned about the lack of choice in the local House race.
“It’s never good for democracy,” he said.
Faulkner also isn’t shy about saying the new district influenced his decision to run. While the old District 35 included Seward and had a fishing community focus, the new, western peninsula district extends from Seldovia to Funny River and takes in rural road system towns like Ninilchik, Kasilof and Clam Gulch. “Absolutely. No question about it,” Faulkner said when asked if redistricting influenced his decision to run.
With half the new district citizens not represented previously by Seaton, Faulkner said he thinks that will help neutralize the incumbent advantage. “It gives a nonincumbent a fighting chance,” he said.
There’s also another aspect to the new district Faulkner cited.
“Clearly, a more conservative district,” he said. “It’s more conservative north of here.”
The focus of Faulkner’s campaign has been to distinguish himself as a more conservative Republican Party candidate sympathetic to what he calls the core values of conservatism: respect and promotion of free enterprise and competition, less government control and regulation, and respect for faith issues.
Faulkner makes a connection between local concerns with big government and the national debate over the role of government in daily life, particularly with the Affordable Health Care Act, President Barack Obama’s sweeping change of national health care. Last century during the Progressive Era of Teddy Roosevelt, the private sector went through more government regulation, Faulkner said.
“Now, 100 years later, that is completely flipped on its head and you ask, ‘Is there anything government should not do?’” Faulkner said. “The challenge for Americans is to answer that question.”
When asked about Seaton’s strengths, Faulkner praised his opponent.
“He’s a gentleman. He’s a family man. He’s a public servant. He’s sacrificed his life to serve his community,” Faulkner said. “I think his intentions are good.”
Seaton’s biggest weakness is a lack of leadership, particularly when he isn’t clear on how he stands on issues, Faulkner said. At a campaign appearance last week at the Homer Senior Center, Faulkner used an example: Seaton not coming out for or against the Pebble mine. Seaton said that Pebble has the right to file and work a mining claim, and it would be a taking of property if the state outright prohibited the mine before the permitting process went through.
Faulkner also criticizes Seaton for poor rankings by business groups like the Alaska branch of the National Federation of Independent Businesses. On one of Seaton’s major accomplishments, helping get the Anchor Point-Homer gas line built, Faulkner said he would not stand in the way of building and expanding the line, but did say he felt Enstar Natural Gas should have built it.
Issues Faulkner has heard in his campaign include fisheries, particularly the decline in king salmon, the economy and education. Faulkner, some of whose children have attended East Coast boarding schools, favors what he calls state-funded “parental scholarships” to pay for home school and private school education in state.
The only Democratic Party candidate for House District 30, Elizabeth L. “Liz” Diament already has locked up her party’s nomination and is looking ahead to taking on either the incumbent, Rep. Paul Seaton, or his Republican Party challenger, businessman Jon Faulkner.
“The goal is to get my name out there in the primary season and get people to know who I am and recognize I’m a choice in the general election,” Diament said of her campaign strategy.
Diament, 32 — her name sounds like “diamond” with an “-ent” — came to Homer and Alaska in 2004. Born in New York City and raised in Eastchester, N.Y., in Westchester County, she graduated with a bachelor of arts in philosophy and fine art photography with a minor in religious studies from the University of Delaware, Newark. After graduating she tried to get a job in graphic arts but wound up working as an insurance claims examiner in downtown New York on Wall Street.
“After a year I got burned out,” Diament said. “I got in my car and decided New York City was not the place for me. I drove west.”
She wound up first in Portland, Ore., living with two Homer women, Carmen Pfeil and Holly Mitchell. In Portland she got active in environmental politics, working for the Tillamook Rain Forest Coalition. When her roommates suggested she try Homer for the summer, she loaded up her red Toyota Celica and drove north. Like a lot of Alaskans who came just for the summer, she’s never left.
Since living here she’s worked as a U.S. Census worker, at remote wilderness lodges, for the Seldovia Bay Ferry and on two major film productions in Alaska, as a plasterer on “Big Miracle” and a production assistant on “Ghostvision.” Currently she works in the contract post office at the Fritz Creek General Store. Diament lives on Ohlson Mountain Road.
With her youth and background as an Alaskan struggling to make a living in rural Alaska, Diament said she thinks she can represent a constituency not present in the Legislature.
“I looked around at the representation in Juneau. I didn’t see anybody who fit my profile, somebody starting out and trying to make it here, dealing with the high cost of energy and land,” she said. “I grew up with the idea that if you don’t feel represented, you should step up and get represented. If that means you should run, that’s what you do.”
Diament grew up in a politically active family. Her father, now a retired attorney, is a big believer in free speech and freedom of the press.
“He defended a lot of people with odd views,” she said. “That’s what struck me: Everybody should have a voice, however weird.”
In college, Diament had worked with other young Democrats. Discouraged after the 2000 election, she became more active in 2008, and has been involved in Homer Democratic Party politics since the presidential caucuses. State and local Democratic Party officials encouraged her to run.
As Faulkner is trying to do in the primary, should Seaton win she said she can offer a choice.
“I think it’s important to have multiple choices up there,” Diament said. “I think that’s why Faulkner’s in it, too — a chance to give people an opportunity if they’re not satisfied with what’s going on.”
Diament looks at Seaton’s 10 years in office as making him a career politician, something she doesn’t want to be.
“I think all politicians should be somebody who’s part of the community and taking a little jaunt down there to represent,” she said. “’Citizen legislator’ is the term.”
Issues important to Diament include health care reform and the environment, particularly maintaining fish habitat, clean water and watersheds. She strongly opposes the Pebble Mine project, an issue she hears voters talk about a lot, some in support. The oil tax issue also is big.
“Most people I’ve talked to seem to think the oil companies need to prove that the tax break we’re going to give them are going to come back to benefit us,” Diament said.
As a younger person running for office, Diament said she sees another reason to be in the race.
“People of my generation don’t always show up in the number they should,” she said. “I hope that by my running it will encourage them to participate in the process.”