HOMER -- Competition for Homer's seat in the Alaska Legislature just got a little thinner, as candidate Pete Roberts announced Monday he is withdrawing from the House District 35 race.
Roberts, an anti-annexation activist, said he had been considering pulling out of the race since March because of the similarity of his positions to those of fellow challenger Paul Seaton.
"I am throwing my support to Paul Seaton, who has a similar political philosophy for open and honest government," Roberts said. "Paul and I are on exactly the same plane with our positions and platforms. He's putting a lot of energy into his campaign and is getting a good reception. There's no sense in Paul and I splitting the vote."
The move leaves just two candidates -- incumbent Drew Scalzi, a first-term Republican, and Seaton, also a Republican.
Seaton, a commercial fisher, welcomed the news.
"I'm very pleased that Mr. Roberts is supporting my campaign to bring more accountable government to Juneau," he said Tuesday. "This will help give voters a clear choice."
Seaton has been critical of Scalzi's support of the closed caucus system, which he says effectively shuts out constituents.
"Secret government is not good government. We need to try and go back to open government so constituents know what their representative is thinking," he said. "I will be working to change the system, not perpetuate it."
Scalzi, also a commercial fisher, said people who are uncomfortable with the caucus system don't understand it. He said the closed caucus is not about taking a position in secret, but, rather, about being able to brainstorm and share ideas out of the media spotlight.
"I was apprehensive about it myself," he said. "I think that people are naive if they think they're going to be elected and not be a part of the party."
Seaton said he differs from Scalzi over taxation, too, particularly the gross receipts tax, a Scalzi-sponsored initiative that would have taxed retailers.
"That would encourage buying outside the state. I'm concerned that whatever taxes we propose not be detrimental to the economy," Seaton said. "We need to spread the burden of taxes across the nonresidents who work here, as well."
Seaton said he favors a "simple" income tax based on 10 percent of an individual's federal tax.
"I was very opposed to the multi-level income tax that the House came up with and that (Scalzi) supported," he said. "I want a simple, fair tax that the legislators are not going to have room to maneuver or manipulate."
Scalzi defended his record, including his involvement in the bipartisan Fiscal Policy Caucus, which worked to resolve the state's budget crisis. He said he does not favor any kind of sales tax, either, saying that should be reserved for local government. But he said the state's tenuous fiscal situation made it important to put ideas on the table.
"(The Fiscal Policy Caucus) knew someone had to take the lead and get the dialogue going -- put it out there and engage the public. That's what I did," he said. "I'm pleased with the results. If they've got a different way to do it, I'd love to hear it."
Mark Kelsey is the managing editor and general manager of the Homer News.
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