Faced with 14 candidates covering three different party affiliations, peninsula voters in three House districts have a lot to choose from this fall.
One-term incumbent District 9 Rep. Hal Smalley, (D-Kenai), has a lot of competition for his office this year, which serves Kenai and Nikiski. While only one of the two Republicans in the race will survive the August primary election to face him in the general election in November, Smalley also will face a challenge from the Republican Moderate Party for the first time.
But Smalley said he feels good about his record during the last two years, during which he served on the House Affairs Committee and the Oil and Gas Committee.
Of his accomplishments in Juneau, Smalley said he worked hard to restore funds for the Department of Transportation maintenance yard in Nikiski, which now will stay open this winter. He credited public outcry and involvement in swaying the Republican-led Legislature in that case, as well as for keeping Captain Cook State Recreation Area open.
The park had been targeted as one of several in the state slated for closure if projected cuts to the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation went through.
He also said his ability to work with legislators on both sides of the aisle is something he feels will contribute to his re-election possibilities.
"I don't care whose name is on a piece of legislation, if it's good and sound, I will support it," Smalley said.
If he is elected to a second term, the former Kenai City Council member said he would like to get enough money to turn the Nikiski escape route into a two-lane road.
"We came real close to having funding for it this year," Smalley said. "We need a second access and egress route to Nikiski if something happens to the main road."
Smalley said someone asked him if he was taking this election year seriously, with so many first-time candidates running. He said he absolutely is.
"I will take it very seriously and work hard at each turn," he said. "There are some very good candidates running."
One of those candidates is Republican Moderate candidate James Price, a 12-year resident of Nikiski, who said he decided to run for House District 9 to give voters a third choice.
"I believe I will bring new ideas and that the Republican Moderate Party shall offer a new direction for the citizens in the state of Alaska," Price said.
The Republican Moderates were formed two years ago by gubernatorial candidate Ray Metcalf of Anchorage because he said the Alaska Republican Party has been taken over by radical religious conservatives. Price said he and the Republican Moderate Party are fiscally conservative, but believe government has no right intruding into the private lives of citizens the way the party platform for the Republican Party suggests.
"It's like they're trying to legislate morality," Price said.
Price said he feels more money should be cut from the state budget.
"Our revenues are declining and there is still a lot of waste in state government," he said.
He said he voted no during the Sept. 14 advisory vote on using a portion of the earnings of the Alaska Permanent Fund to pay for state government.
"I think the state should invest in Alaska businesses for Alaskans," Price said, adding, "Too much money goes out of state."
Price has no competition in the Aug. 22 primary election, though two Republicans, Mike Chenault of Nikiski and Linda Reynolds of Kalifornsky Beach Road also are seeking the seat held by Smalley.
Candidate Doug Ruzicka of Anchor Point is one of three Republicans seeking to replace retiring Rep. Gail Phillips this fall in House District 7, serving Homer to Kasilof. Drew Scalzi and Dale Wunderlich are the other two Republicans. One Democrat, Amy Bollenbach also is running.
Ruzicka said he does not know much about his opponents.
"I know Drew is on the (Kenai Peninsula Borough) Assembly and Dale ran two years ago," he said.
Wunderlich ran unsuccessfully against Phillips in the 1998 Republican primary.
"I'm running because I believe people are not being represented anymore," Ruzicka said. "The Legislature is not listening to the people."
He cited the September permanent fund vote and the Legislature's attempts to tap the fund as examples.
"I came to the conclusion after the permanent fund vote," he said. "It caused me to think about what our government really is.
"The representatives should have done what the people told them to do after the vote. Years ago my teachers told me the legislators are elected to do what you tell them to do," Ruzicka added. "I might be oversimplifying it, but if they were more responsive we wouldn't have problems with government."
Republican candidate Charlie Parker, who is running for House District 8, which serves Soldotna to Seward, said his campaign is based on two simple objectives; one, to balance the state budget, and two, to build the Susitna Dam project that was shelved years ago.
He also said restoring money in the Constitutional Budget Reserve appropriated by the Legislature is important to him.
Unlike many candidates, Parker said he does not believe the Alaska Permanent Fund is a sacred cow. He has what he calls "Parker's Painless Plan" for balancing the budget.
"It's time to split the earnings of the permanent fund," he said. "We should use half to fund the dividend and inflation-proof the principal and the other half should be used toward long-term profitable enterprises."
With his stand on use of permanent fund earnings, Parker said voters will have a very clear choice when they go to the polls.
"Do they want to continue the present system of using the revenue for the dividend, which I call a welfare program, or vote for me," Parker said.
Parker faces competition in the Aug. 22 Republican primary from Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member Grace Merkes of Sterling, Larry Smith of Cooper Landing, Soldotna Mayor Ken Lancaster and Carolyn Reynolds of Soldotna. The Republican victor will face Democrat Pete Sprague in the November general election.
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