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District O candidates square off

Posted: August 12, 2014 - 8:06pm  |  Updated: August 12, 2014 - 8:14pm
State Senate District O independent candidate Eric Treider and incumbent Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, discuss their goals if elected during a debate at a Kenai/Soldotna Chamber Luncheon Tuesday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.  Photo by Dan Balmer/Peninsula Clarion
Photo by Dan Balmer/Peninsula Clarion
State Senate District O independent candidate Eric Treider and incumbent Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, discuss their goals if elected during a debate at a Kenai/Soldotna Chamber Luncheon Tuesday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

The two candidates for Senate District O met for the first time for a debate Tuesday and the only thing challenger Eric Treider and incumbent Sen. Peter Micciche R-Soldotna agreed on was that they both had very different visions for the future of Alaska.

Micciche and Treider spoke at a joint luncheon of the Kenai and Soldotna Chambers of Commerce at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex Tuesday. Soldotna Chamber of Commerce President Ryan Kapp moderated the debate and asked each candidate a series of questions from legislative goals, to how they would vote on the ballot initiatives.

Treider, who is running as an independent, will be on the Nov. 4 general election ballot while Micciche will be on the Aug. 19 primary ballot. Micciche said he would not campaign until after the primary, when the race will be decided with the general election.

The differences between the two candidates became more evident with each question.

While Treider admitted he did not have the experience working on local boards or commissions, Micciche referenced his past experience in local government from Soldotna mayor, council member and the multiple committees and service projects he has served on.

“It takes a certain skill to be idealistic yet pragmatic,” he said. “I have a vision of utopia but I accept that is never going to happen. The job is to try to get us as close as possible. Those that get hung up on getting exactly what they want causes gridlock. Experience is pertinent to what I’m doing. I love my job.”

Treider said his top legislative priority if elected would be to propose a rule change that would allow lawmakers to abstain from voting on matters with a perceived conflict of interest. Treider has been critical of Micciche’s voting record on oil and gas issues while working as superintendent of the ConocoPhillips Liquefied Natural Gas Production Facility in Nikiski.

Micciche said his priority would be to control spending and continue to turn around the local economy and create more jobs. He said with 92 percent of state revenue coming from oil and gas production developing jobs around the industry would get the state moving in the right direction.

Both were asked how they would vote on Ballot Measure 1, the referendum to repeal Senate Bill 21, the oil and gas production tax. Micciche said to stay competitive with other oil and gas producing states something had to be done and Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share (ACES) was failing.

“The only remaining state that continues to decline is Alaska,” he said. “The reality is I am the person that made the change of the governor’s base tax from 25 to 35 percent. We should give it a chance and if it ends up not being what we need in the future we can make the necessary tweaks. Nobody wants to go back to ACES, including the Democrats.”

Treider said he is a strong proponent of the Ballot Measure 1.

“I don’t think it makes sense to pump the oil as fast as we can and get less for it,” he said. “The state budget is way out of proportion of where it should be. It is unfair to saddle our children and grandchildren with a monstrous state budget without means to be able to support it. To me, that is the height of irresponsibility.”

Both had different takes on Ballot Measure 2, the proposed legalization of marijuana. Micciche said it is an easy choice to vote no because he cannot justify responsible drug use to his daughters. He said he couldn’t encourage people smoking marijuana wherever they want when he is working on making Alaska a smokefree workplace.

“Those that have challenges with motivation, I don’t believe making marijuana legal is the right answer,” Micciche said. “The social cost is so much higher than the potential tax revenue.”

Treider said he would vote yes because he believes marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol. He said he smoked pot one time in the last 30 years and didn’t enjoy the experience, but doesn’t agree with how it is criminalized.

“The most harmful drug in our culture is alcohol and has destroyed more lives than marijuana ever will,” he said.

Micciche and Treider did agree on Ballot Measure 3, to increase the Alaska Minimum Wage from $7.75 per hour to $8.75 beginning in January 2015.

Treider said a living wage is vital for people who spend their full time in service to make other people’s lives better.

“A good job is the best social program there is,” he said. “People receiving a living wage does far more to lift their dignity and feeling of self-worth as people.”

Micciche said he is cautious of states like Washington and California that have proposed a minimum wage of $15 per hour because it would make an entry-level job like working at McDonald’s a career for some people, when people should be motivated to go to school.

“I worked at McDonald’s when I was 16 and I was fired for fighting,” he said. “It taught me that’s not what I wanted to do and helped me advance to the next step. I won the fight but lost my job.”

As for the ballot initiative on Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, both candidates agreed that certain steps need to be taken to protect the salmon habitat.

Micciche referenced how he raised concerns on House Bill 77, aimed to accelerate the water and land use permits. The bill, which passed through the house and was scheduled for the Senate floor, died in the Senate Resource Committee.

Treider asked Micciche about earlier comments he made about how could satisfy pro-development interests, as well as fishing and environmental groups with compromises made on HB 77. Micciche said he has been involved with the Kenai Watershed Forum since its inception and worked with Robert Ruffner the executive director on water reservations.

Micciche said he is pro-responsible development but at the same time is unwilling to sacrifice healthy fish and clean air and water.

Treider has been vocal about getting money out of politics and said he wouldn’t accept money from any corporations, only individuals. Micciche said he was glad to hear he doesn’t accept campaign contributions from businesses because that would be illegal. He said company employees can put money into a PAC toward a candidate, which can be traced back to the person.

Micciche asked how Treider could say PACs are not OK when in the past Treider has contributed to Democratic causes.

“When I made the decision to run for office, I decided to set the example of how a campaign should be run,” Treider said.

One question from the audience came from Speaker of the House Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski. He asked the candidates where they would cut the budget.

“First I would like to cut the House operating budget,” Micciche said, which drew laughs from the audience.

Treider said he would like to see an education endowment created because when times get tough it seems that schools are most likely affected by budget deficits.

Treider said Micciche tries to paint him as a liberal socialist.

“The Senator has only two strings on his banjo, oil and gas,” he said. “I feel we need to plan ahead and invest in renewable energy. There is no reason we couldn’t develop an entire culture around renewable energy.”

Micciche said he is proud of his conservative stance and is dedicated to keep the economy moving forward.

“(Treider) is a nice man but is somewhat naive,” he said. “As a Republican I represent everyone in District O equally. This shouldn’t be a seat held by someone with no experience.”


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the_postman 08/13/14 - 06:14 am
Micciche distances himself from his support for revised HB 77

Eric Treider here. One of the most interesting moments during the forum was when Senator Micciche told us not to believe what he said in Lisa Demer's ADN article, 3/11/14:

"Do you get everything you want? Well, you don't, " Micciche said in an interview Monday. "But from the changes that have been made to the bill, only those at the most extreme wings of these two issues may have difficultly agreeing that this is a well-thought compromise. It gets us pretty close."
"In my view, this is a case where government actually worked, " Micciche said.

The fact of the matter is that Senator Micciche supports an effort to short-circuit our environmental permitting process, paving the way for mining disasters like the one we saw at the Mount Polly mine in Canada just last week. From the Guardian Newspaper:

"The scale of the devastation only became apparent from the air. A dam at a waste pond on the site of a British Columbia open-pit mine had burst, releasing 10m cubic meters of water and 4.5m cubic meters of potentially toxic slurry into virtually untouched forest, lakes and rivers into an area of Canada populated mostly by the indigenous First Nations peoples. Soda Creek First Nations chief Bev Sellars took a helicopter tour to assess the scale of the disaster. “It looked like an avalanche, but avalanches don’t have toxic waste in them,” she said."

It is to be observed that Imperial Metals, the mine owner, was a heavy donor to the political campaigns of the Liberal Party, which currently rules in Canada.

If Senator Micciche really opposed HB 77 as much as he said he did, all he had to do was vote No. But instead, he held a series of town meetings to discuss the bill. Clearly, he supports its overall goals. Only when it became clear that the public was vigorously opposed to this irresponsible legislation did he back away from it and try to distance himself from it. We'll leave it up to you to determine why he was trying so hard to push a bill that keeps public input out of large scale project permitting.

Suss 08/13/14 - 07:05 am
Bill Allen, Veco

When Bill Allen was in charge of corruption in Juneau there was a point man for Big Oil.

Now that Big Oil has no need for a "Bill Allen",

Is this what Big Oil means when they refer to being committed to local hire?

Raoulduke 08/13/14 - 08:41 am
Point man

Suss-Really like the comment of "local hire". Truly! One can really not blame the giver as much as the "MORALLY CORRUPT" elected officials.Who have taken both from the people of this state,and from the seeker of the morally corrupt.These are the elected officials. Who are suppose to be living up to their oath of office. Great role models for our youth.

aklife32 08/13/14 - 09:13 am

Well written article Clarion. However, would of liked to see mention of the fact that Mr. Trieder works for a much larger global oilfield company, Schlumberger, and has for his whole career. There is nothing wrong with that, but for him to then demonize the industry that he personally has benefitted from shows more of the leftist political hypocrisy from Obama/Pelosi/Reid- supporting Treider.

jford 08/13/14 - 10:31 am
Just because you work for a corporation,

doesn't mean you have to adopt or believe in supporting their corporate mindset or even support their corporate goals.

Being a wage slave, like Eric, doesn't mean you have to agree with every bit of the whole corporate policy. You just do your job to earn a living.

Nothing leftist or hypocritical about it.

However, if you're upper management, like Micciche, it's critical that you've been vetted into the corporate mindset, or you wouldn't have been picked for advancement within the corporate structure, and it's highly likely you have to pass the corporate 'purity test' in order to advance into upper management.

Hypocrisy is saying you're a representative of the people when you get your marching orders from your corporate masters and vote accordingly, giving them billions of dollars of public money. That would be Micciche.

Eric has the integrity to distance himself from the corporate greed and speak to the interests of the people at large, the public, his actual constituents.

luvak52 08/13/14 - 11:53 am
And Mr. Treider will quit his job

at Schlumberger if elected to serve the people of District O. As he says, aptly, one cannot serve two masters. The only group he would serve in the legislature are the people who elect him. He will have no loyalty to any corporation. These days, many people work for large corporations of some sort. It doesn't make them a bad person. However, if someone in upper management of a corporation is also a sitting legislator who votes in favor of a bill that will make him and his boss richer, that is a conflict of interest and completely inappropriate, in my opinion. Rules of the Senate could have been changed prior to that vote. Mr. Treider is correct to state his first order of business will be to push for a rule change so that people with blatant and obvious conflicts of interest on legislation can be excused from voting.

the_postman 08/14/14 - 07:18 am
Response to aklife32

Eric Treider here: I am proud of my employment with Schlumberger. I prepped the geophysical instruments that were used to log both the Alpine and Badami discovery wells. We have been loyal to one another for thirty years and I actively recruit people to come to work for Schlumberger because it IS a good company. I am NOT speaking for my employer but I believe that my support for Prop 1 is a vote FOR Schlumberger's future in Alaska. Does it really make good business sense to drill and pump like crazy FOR LESS TAX REVENUE and exhaust the oil resource years ahead of it's time? When the oil's gone, it's gone! And oilfield support companies like Schlumberger will vanish, too, taking their jobs with them.

I want the oil business to last a long time at a steady, metered pace. Nothing is more disruptive to communities, families and local businesses than boom and bust cycles. I know. I have lived through several of them.

In the end, Yes on Prop 1 will actually benefit the oil producers and service companies because it will prolong the life of the field. Remember that oil company managers are more interested in short-term performance because their bonuses and stock options are based on annual benchmarks and short-term stock prices. They have little commitment to our communities and they don't care much about what happens to us five years from now, let alone ten or twenty years.

Yes on 1 will be good for everyone, including oil producers. A return to ACES will be a win-win for everyone.

the_postman 08/13/14 - 09:53 pm
Pelosi? Come on...

Peter, as your research probably revealed, I haven't been a registered Democrat in many years. The only reason I supported Obama was because I felt he'd be less likely to let the corporatists have their way with us than Romney. Too bad Ron Paul didn't get the Republican nod -- I might have voted for him. Obama blew the one chance we had for single-payer, didn't end these brutal, senseless wars soon enough and went along with the NSA spying. I don't believe he's been an effective leader and I think Pelosi has been too divisive. I want to bring people together around a vision for the future, not obsess over Left and Right like you do. You seem eager to pigeon-hole and label people without really getting to know them. Is this how you relate to all of your constituents?


jlmh 08/14/14 - 11:44 am
"Treider has been vocal about

"Treider has been vocal about getting money out of politics and said he wouldn’t accept money from any corporations, only individuals. Micciche said he was glad to hear he doesn’t accept campaign contributions from businesses because that would be illegal."

Haha, good one!

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