U.S. Senate candidate Tony Knowles told Soldotna residents Saturday that Republicans feel they've got a stranglehold on Alaska's representation in Congress and he's the man to break that grip.
"(Republicans) haven't had competition for the Senate seat in 24 years," the former Alaska governor said during a barbecue at the Soldotna Senior Citizens Center.
"With your help, I'm going to give them all the competition they can stand," he said.
Knowles was in Soldotna as part of his campaign kick-off tour. Although he announced his candidacy months ago, Knowles said the official election filing period is closed, making this the perfect time to begin his push toward Washington, D.C.
About 60 people gathered at the center to hear him speak. The stop was the third of four he made Saturday on the Kenai Peninsula, including a morning barbecue in Homer, an afternoon stop at the Kenai River Festival and an evening visit to the Sterling Senior Center.
In the next two weeks, Knowles said he'll be visiting more than 30 communities across the state, including ones in Southeast, Southcentral, the Interior and the Arctic.
During that trip, he's likely to stress points similar to those made in Soldotna. Knowles said his primary focus during the campaign will be on convincing Alaska voters that a vote for him is a vote against partisan politics and special interests.
"It's not going to be good for any party or any special interest," he said. "But the first priority is what's good for Alaska."
Knowles said if he's elected, he plans to work on a few key issues he believes are important to Alaska voters. Those issues include jobs, health care, education, national security and protecting personal freedoms for all Americans, he said.
"Those are issues we can make opportunities for the next generation," he said.
Throughout his speech, Knowles refused to mention either of the top two Republican candidates incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski and her challenger in the primary, Mike Miller he's likely to face in the general election.
Instead, he tried to present himself as a moderate ready to end partisan politics in Washington.
"I can add a strong Alaskan voice saying no to partisanship and special interests," he said.
Knowles pledged to support the second amendment, middle class tax cuts, more affordable health care and perhaps most important to Alaskans opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development.
"We need to convince a lot of Democrats back in Washington, D.C., to do that," he said.
Following the meeting, many people in attendance said they were impressed with the message the Knowles conveyed. Among them were Kenai's Wayne and Peggy Jones, who said they came away agreeing with Knowles' contention that there is too much party politics going on in the federal government and that Knowles can help change that.
"I think it's time for the brand of sanity that he brings," Wayne Jones said.
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