Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of stories looking at area candidates for the Alaska Legislature.
The battle for Senate District O will be fought by two men with very different visions for the future of Alaska and the district, which includes Nikiski, Soldotna and Seward.
Incumbent Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, has been heavily involved in politics for several years, working his way up boards and commissions in Soldotna, to a seat on the Soldotna City Council, to becoming the city’s elected Mayor, then defeating a longtime Republican senator for a seat in the state’s Legislature in 2012.
Challenger Eric Treider has been less involved in politics.
The longtime oilfield worker lists his time as a campaign director in Green Bay, Wisconsin, working for Sen. Edward Kennedy’s 1980 presidential campaign as his only political position, according to his campaign bio.
Treider, is running for Alaska State Senate as a non-affiliated candidate. Micciche, as a Republican — meaning that Micciche will be on the Aug. 19 primary ballot, but the race between the two will not be decided until the Nov. 4 general election.
Treider said he hopes as a non-affiliated candidate, he can bridge the gap between the Democratic and Republican parties.
Treider first moved to Alaska in 1985. Oil prices in the mid-80’s crashed to historic lows and his company, Schlumberger, sent him to work in California. He returned to Alaska in 1989 and has been here since. He graduated from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash. and earned a bachelor’s degree in social welfare.
Currently, Treider spends his time volunteering in Kairos Prison Ministries at Wildwood Correctional Center. He also plays the guitar in a praise band at his church at Soldotna United Methodist Church. He said he decided to run for the Senate because he is concerned with how money drives politics while many service organizations don’t receive much needed financial support.
“My opponent Micciche is a fine man and gets things done,” he said. “But he is confused about who he is working for. I’m afraid with that leadership over the long haul we will become a polluted, bankrupt corporate colony.”
Treider said the qualifications of a senator require somebody who cares and is willing to get involved in all aspects of people’s problems. He said his run for Senate is an expression of his faith and to stand up for people being ignored.
Micciche, a commercial drift gillnet fisherman and superintendent of the ConocoPhillips Liquefied Natural Gas Production Facility in Nikiski, has lived on the Central Kenai Peninsula since 1982. He and his wife Erin have four daughters ranging in ages from 19 years to 5 weeks old. The two spend a lot of time volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club, the Soldotna Teen Center which Micciche helped build, the Leeshore Center and several other causes Micciche said the family sees as “imperative to our community’s success.”
“Our most important attribute is that we are regular Alaskans that understand the struggles and needs of regular Alaskan families,” he wrote in an email.
Micciche, as a freshman senator, chaired or vice-chaired five committees and served as a member on eight more. During that time, he weighed in on several of the state’s energy issues, including oil tax improvements, gas line developments and energy costs.
Micciche he has said repeatedly that his experience in the industry helps him to give the perspective of someone who isn’t a career politician.
“My work experience certainly helps in creating effective state policy in the areas of business, commercial fishing and oil and gas,” he wrote in an email to the Clarion. “My practical and technical LNG experience is recognized globally. However my work and life experience is only effective when combined with my conservative philosophy and a personal requirement to always first consider the needs of the larger community.”
Micciche, a sponsor of Senate Bill 21, which passed but is up for a repeal vote in primary election.
Treider has a different vision for Alaska, one that is not driven with oil production.
“(In the Cook Inlet) we are sitting on top of the second most tidal power in the world,” he said. “There is no reason why we can’t develop (renewable energy) industries around exploiting that resource. It will be around forever, unlike oil and gas.”
Treider said the potential for wind turbine renewable energy is something that could be more explored and be a major job producer, one of the biggest driving rhetoric from proponents of SB 21. A wind farm in Colorado (Vesta Wind Systems) recently hired 800 workers after receiving orders for 370 turbines earlier this month. Treider said tidal turbines in the Cook Inlet and wind turbines on the northern peninsula bluff could generate a vast amount of power.
He quoted a former Alaskan Governor Wally Hickel who said, “Cheap electricity is more than turning on a light. It is turning on an opportunity.”
With SB21, Treider said oil companies benefited from tax breaks. Meanwhile one of the largest problems on the Kenai Peninsula, drug addiction, is vastly underfunded, he said.
“The social costs of addiction are heartbreaking,” he said. “We need to do everything we can to give people their lives back.”
Micciche said the state needed to tackle its social issues during the next Legislative session.
“As a primary social issue, we must also face our higher-than-acceptable negative demographics associated with suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault and accidental death,” he wrote.
Whether SB21 can solve the all of the problems with Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share, or ACES, tax structure is a question that is tough to answer succinctly, Micciche wrote. Though, he said he believed that it is a dramatic improvement over ACES.
“Folks are tired of disingenuous sound bites and are confused by the issue,” he wrote.
Micciche said SB21 solves several “primary issues” with ACES and that it makes Alaska oil resource development competitive, without cutting the state’s revenue significantly.
“It eliminates expensive, boutique and poorly-considered tax credits (costs to Alaskans) that had nothing to do with producing oil, such as paving runways and fancy crew’s quarters,” Micciche wrote. “SB21 rewards the production of new oil with well-suited tax incentives. ACES attracted companies to the state that focused on earning lucrative tax credits instead of producing actual oil.”
Oil production is ultimately the point in the process that benefits Alaskans and sustains the Permanent Fund Dividend, Micciche said.
Treider said as a member of Anchorage Faith and Action Community Together, they strive to hold elected officials accountable for their actions. He is interested in starting a similar organization on the Kenai Peninsula. He was also an active member of the Occupy Kenai and Soldotna group.
Treider said he is not a professional politician and he knows the odds are stacked against him. He restricting his campaign donations to individuals and limiting them to $100 a piece, he said.
“We need to make a course correction to put people before corporate profits,” Treider said. “I have the motivation to make our economy and society work for everybody, not just the privileged.”
Micciche said the 29th Legislature would have to draw a line between essential and non-essential services.
“We spend too much using any generally-accepted economic indicator as a metric,” he wrote. “Even though we expect to reverse the decline of oil production, our current level of spending will compromise our ability to survive as a state while continuing to deliver essential services in the future.”
Micciche said he believed he was elected because of his record of being fiscally conservative and saving money for the future.
Ultimately, both said the job of serving Senate District O should be given to someone who cared about Alaskans and had the best interests of the state at heart.
“The job is not for the lighthearted and shouldn’t be for those looking for individual recognition,” Micciche wrote. “This job is a team sport requiring an unquenchable commitment to the community; an absolute dedication toward a better life for all Alaskans willing to work for it, a temporary lift for those down on their luck and support for those simply physically or psychologically unable to provide for themselves.”