Price: Closed primary, lack of funds present challenges

Primary election: District 34 House Republican

Posted: Tuesday, August 20, 2002

House District 34 candidate James R. Price, who is running unopposed in the Aug. 27 primary as a Republican Moderate, said this week he thinks Republican incumbent Rep. Mike Chenault is vulnerable in the general election in November.

But he has a big hurdle to overcome -- getting people to contribute to his campaign.

"It is my contention that if I could raise a third of the money he is raising, I could get my message out," he said. "The closed primary is a problem. There is no motivation for anyone to give me a vote of confidence when I'm not running against anyone."

Price said contributors might be reluctant to give him money after the primary if he doesn't garner many votes. That's a possibility because he won't appear on any ballot but the Republican Moderate ballot, he said.

Price has been a political activist in recent years. Last year he was largely responsible for leading the charge against public funding for a privately operated prison on the Kenai Peninsula. This year he headed up

a successful initiative drive to put a ballot measure on the Oct. 2 ballot exempting nonprepared foods from the borough's 2-percent sales tax.

Price is convinced the state government spends too much money. He said it might be possible to carve hundreds of millions from a bloated $1.3 billion capital budget.

"The bottom line is let's run a copy of what it is and start taking action," he said. Lawmakers, he added, aren't looking at the bottom line as they "continue ratcheting up the budget" and depleting the Constitutional Budget Reserve.

Even otherwise worthwhile projects might have to be bypassed to balance the budget, he said. As an example, he said if it came down to making a choice between funding an expansion of Escape Route Road and deficit spending, he would cut the road project. The same goes for a $400,000 expenditure for the Nikiski Community Center, he said.

Candidates for the Legislature often make promises to cut spending. "Then they get down there and they don't," he said. "They vote, depending what party they are in, right down the party line. I would be prepared to vote 'no' on a budget that is not sustainable."

Price said he would not have voted for the "closed primary," as his opponent did. The Republicans, he said, have gone much further than the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the California election case required.

"The Supreme Court did not mandate for every primary to be closed," he said. "It mandated that if individual parties chose to close their primaries, they should have the right to. They (Republican lawmakers) forced everyone's primary closed and forced the public to pay for it."

Price also said lawmakers have skewed priorities. Education, public safety and transportation are the only state government responsibilities mandated by the Alaska Constitution, he said. Yet, typically, lawmakers fund unmandated projects while asking voters to approve bond measures to fund schools, roads and public safety.

That's wrong, and he'd reverse that trend, he said.

Price said he supports moving the Legislature.

Price has lived in Nikiski for 14 years. He has been an oil field worker and a commercial fisher.

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