If you didn't hear six candidates for Alaska governor speaking in Kenai Wednesday, you weren't listening very hard.
Two separate candidate forums were held Wednesday, giving those vying for governor plenty of time to say why they were the best person for the job.
The first forum, sponsored by the Kenai Chamber of Commerce, was held at the Diamond Rose bingo hall in Kenai. The more than 250 people who filled the hall got the chance to hear a wide range of opinions from five candidates: Democrat Fran Ulmer, Republicans Frank Murkowski and Wayne A. Ross, and Alaska Independence Party candidates John Wayne Glotfelty and Nels Anderson Jr.
The forum, which lasted about an hour, was moderated by retired Kenai judge Charles Cranston. Cranston posed several questions to each of the candidates, then asked two questions from the audience.
Many of the candidates for Alaska governor have their own Web pages on the Internet. The following is a list of all candidates who have sites and their addresses:
NELS ANDERSON JR. (Alaskan Independence)
JOHN WAYNE GLOTFELTY (Alaskan Independence)
HAROLD A. SANDY HALDANE (Alaskan Independence)
FRANK H. MURKOWSKI (Republican)
WAYNE A. ROSS (Republican)
FRAN ULMER (Democrat)
Other candidates running for governor include: Don Wright of the Alaskan Independence Party; Samuel Acevedo Fevos Sr. of the Alaskan Independence Party; Casey Cockerham of the Alaskan Independence Party; Michael J. Beasley, a Democrat; Bruce J. Lemke, a Democrat; Erica L. Desa Jacobsson of the Green Party; Billy Toien, a Libertarian; Eric E. Wieler, a Republican; Brad Snowden, a Republican; and Dawn M. Mendias, a Republican Moderate.
The forum lacked much controversy, as it was more a chance for candidates to share their views than debate one another. However, that didn't stop some from making subtle jabs at their opponents.
Ross, who is challenging Murkowski for the Republican Party nomination, said the senator is a good man, but he needs to stay in Washington D.C.
"Doesn't that sound good -- Senator Murkowski?" Ross asked the audience.
Murkowski defended himself by saying he was needed in Alaska in order to change the way business is done in Juneau.
"Everyone seems to be restructuring except state government. We haven't been doing that in our state government. We can't continue with the status quo," the senator said.
The idea of making changes in government was a constant theme from all the candidates.
"The status quo has to go," said Glotfelty.
Glotfelty, the North Pole AIP candidate, stressed that under his administration, cutting government waste would be his top priority.
"There are a ton of nonessential persons who work in this state," he said.
Glotfelty's fellow AIP candidate, Nels Anderson Jr. of Dillingham, told the chamber that his answer to the state's fiscal woes would be to tax North Slope natural gas reserves and build an all-Alaska gas pipeline.
"You can't grow the economy without lowering the cost of energy. You can't do it. We've got to get this (North Slope) gas unstranded," he said.
Finding solutions to the state's fiscal woes was a major topic covered by all the candidates. Most claimed the answer was to increase development of the state's resources.
"We're gonna concentrate on oil and gas. The reason we're gonna concentrate on oil and gas is 80 percent of the state's revenue comes from oil and gas," Murkowski said.
Ross said he'd make tough financial decisions to get the state's budget under control.
"As a lawyer, I'm used to people not liking me," said the Anchorage attorney. "That's what we need. Someone to make tough decisions."
When the topic of finding other sources of revenue was brought up, only one candidate was in favor of looking at taxes to increase state revenue.
"It's completely unrealistic for anybody to claim Alaska can solve its budget gap without new revenue. I'm here to tell you today, the math doesn't work," said Ulmer.
The lieutenant governor stressed that she was committed to saving the permanent fund, and therefore, new revenue would have to be found.
All other candidates said they would not implement new taxes, nor would they tap into the permanent fund. The exception was Anderson.
"I'm not bashful about a tax on gas that's trapped under the North Slope," he said.
Following the chamber forum, candidates had just a few hours before the next round of debate was held at the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association building in Kenai at 6 p.m.
"The topic of the night is Kenai Peninsula issues," said event coordinator Debra Holle at the beginning of the meeting.
After that, five candidates spent three hours discussing what's best for the future of Alaska and the peninsula in particular.
The forum featured a panel of representatives from the groups who sponsored the forum, including the Kenai Peninsula Education Association, the Kenai-Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee, the Kenai Peninsula Tourism and Marketing Council, the Kenai Peninsula Fisherman's Fund and the Kenai Peninsula Resource Management Council.
Questions were asked of the candidates, Ulmer, Ross, Glotfelty, Anderson and Libertarian candidate Billy Toien -- Murkowski was unable to attend due to a previous engagement -- in a "round-robin" format.
Many of the topics covered at the CIAA forum were similar to the chamber forum, though candidates were given more time to expound on their ideas. One of the most controversial issues discussed was the Alaska Board of Fisheries, with many candidates expressing dismay over the current state of Alaska fisheries.
"You can't manage fisheries without emergency order authority, it just can't be done," Anderson said.
"Cook Inlet is being managed as politics as usual," said Ross.
All the candidates said they favored appointments to the board who would make decisions based on managing fisheries from a sound biological perspective.
"I have to say, do what the biologists say," said Ulmer, who used the opportunity to talk about the Board of Fisheries to delineate herself from the Knowles administration.
"Do I look like Tony Knowles?" she asked.
Perhaps the most interesting idea for solving Alaska's fiscal problems came from Libertarian Toien. While he said the main plank of his party was a desire to "get the government out of it and get you in control of your own life," Toien also spent considerable time trying to float an idea for a new Alaska industry.
"A new form of infrastructure would make available all of Alaska's scenic resources," said Toien. "Imagine if we had zeppelin tours in Alaska."
Three main issues dominated the gubernatorial forums held in Kenai Wednesday: fishing, education and what to do about the state's fiscal gap. The following is a sampling of what the candidates had to say on those issues.
On solving the state's fiscal gap:
Wayne Anthony Ross, Republican: "I don't think it's fair to ask Alaskans to pony up more money. That's the difference between Republicans and Democrats --the Democrats want more money. I've taken a position: no taxes. ... It also does not make sense to not have a long-range fiscal plan. It can be accomplished without taxes."
Frank Murkowski, Republican: "It's about leadership and accountability. It's about making decisions and being held accountable."
Fran Ulmer, Democrat: "It's completely unrealistic for anybody to claim that Alaska can solve it's budget gap without new revenue. To put Alaska on firm financial footing is our number one priority."
Nels Anderson Jr., Alaskan Independence Party: "One of the first things I would do is put a freeze on state hiring. I would begin cutting unnecessary corporate welfare. There's no reason in the world why we can't tax North Slope gas. I think that's the way to go."
John Wayne Glotfelty, Alaskan Independence Party: "No to taxes. No means no -- no touching the permanent fund. This madness must end. We must have accountability. Small business is under assault."
Billy Toien, Libertarian: "All we need is an honest accounting system in which all money is accounted for in the general fund."
On appointments to the Alaska Board of Fisheries:
Murkowski: "I'm going to appoint 5 of the 7 board members. ... (The Board of Fish should) make decisions by the best biology and let biologists be heard from."
Ross: "I want to see the Board of Fish staffed by people who are experts in their field ... manage the resource by maximum sustained yield. We need to improve that board and get politics out of it."
Ulmer: "Three to four regional fish boards. ... It's not more bureaucracy, it's more democracy."
Anderson: "The problem is they're not listening to your biologists. I just want our Board of Fish to manage fisheries under the sustained yield principle."
Glotfelty: "Multi-national dragnet trawlers are destroying our fisheries. It has to change, and we will change it."
Toien: "Government itself is a poor steward of the environment. I think we need to move toward privatization."
Murkowski: "Cut administrative costs. You have to reward teachers for performance. ... Get the best people."
Ross: "Restore discipline. Kids can get away with a lot more than they could in your day and mine."
Ulmer: "A two-year education budget. (The current system) undermines a school's ability to do what we really need to do for our students."
Anderson: "We have not kept up with at least 3 percent inflation per year. That needs to be fixed. A lot of good teachers leave the state. We need to reverse that trend."
Glotfelty: "When you free teachers from administrative burdens, magic happens in a classroom."
Toien: "I'm for public education. But I'm 100 percent against government education. The government has no business having a monopoly on the minds of our young people at all."
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