James, Coghill face off in battle of incumbents

Posted: Sunday, August 25, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The only two incumbents facing off in a state House race are giving their constituents ammunition for choosing.

Redistricting lumped Republican Reps. Jeannette James, the House majority leader, and John Coghill, chairman of the State Affairs Committee, into the same North Pole district.

Until last week, they publicly agree on issues and avoided criticizing each other. But they split Friday at a Republican luncheon on government revenue, federal aid, moving the Legislature and caucus loyalty.

''I look at the positive,'' James said. ''He looks at the negative.''

The winner of the District 11 Republican primary Tuesday faces no opposition in the November general election.

James, tied with two others as the House Republican with the most seniority, announced last week that she would seek the speaker's chair.

Coghill said he would prefer Rep. Pete Kott, R-Eagle River, for the top leadership position and hinted that he might be in line for a leadership position himself if Kott prevails. Rep. Lisa Murkowski, R-Anchorage, also is seeking the speaker's job.

While James winces at being characterized as more moderate than Coghill -- she sponsored legislation to give Alaskans the right to carry concealed handguns -- she staked out that ground at the forum.

James' main campaign message is about economic development. Coghill's is about controlling government growth.

James favors tapping the Alaska Permanent Fund earnings to cover state budget funding shortfalls before instituting a state tax. Coghill -- reluctantly -- said he would consider taxes before tapping fund earnings.

Coghill has few qualms about the state turning its back on federal aid because of the strings attached and because federal aid usually requires matching state money. James said turning away federal money is not realistic.

Coghill supports moving the Legislature so that people have better access to lawmakers. James says moving the Legislature is too costly. She also said moving the Legislature may not even increase citizen participation in government, but she added that a move is inevitable.

James says that caucus loyalty is a must to be an effective lawmaker. Coghill, who once joined three other Republicans and left the Republican caucus, said he'd do it again if he didn't like the direction the caucus was taking.

Both candidates garnered ample applause from their GOP audience.

''The consolation is that after the votes are counted on Tuesday, we're going to have a great representative in Juneau,'' said Fairbanks North Star Borough Assemblywoman Bonnie Williams, who moderated the forum.

Subscribe to Peninsula Clarion

Trending this week:


© 2018. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us