At one point during Tuesday's debate, J.R. Myers was asked how he is different than Linda Murphy, his only opponent for Soldotna's Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly seat.
The question came after the candidates had already expressed similar opinions on major issues like hospital ownership, the school roofs bond and the borough manager concept, prompting Murphy to joke that they seemingly agreed on everything.
"Just look at us," Myers said, laughing.
"My hair is a bit shorter," Murphy joked, when asked how she differed from Myers.
And, for much of Tuesday's Soldotna Chamber of Commerce-run debate, the candidates' hair -- Murphy's short and blond, Myers' dark and slicked back into a long ponytail -- separated them more than anything else.
More seriously, Murphy said it is her local experience that sets her apart.
"What I bring to the table is my years of experience, my contacts statewide and my contacts locally," Murphy said. "My learning curve would be fairly short."
Murphy served as the borough clerk between 1997 and 2005. She currently serves on the borough planning commission.
Myers said, in contrast to Murphy, he does enter the election with preconceived ideas.
"I do have an agenda," Myers said. "I'm opposed to any radical changes."
Myers is a vice chairman for the Alaskan Independence Party and works as an emergency mental health clinician.
Both agreed that the possible change of ownership at Central Peninsula Hospital will be the biggest issue facing the next assembly.
"My question is why rush to make these huge changes, which will be irrevocable for the hospital?" Myers asked rhetorically.
Murphy is also "concerned about a rush to judgement," but is keeping an open mind on the issue.
"I don't have my mind made up because I think there are too many questions that still need to be answered," Murphy said.
Each candidate is against the ballot initiative that would support a borough manager/weak mayor form of government.
Myers said he is against a borough manager if the idea is to create efficient government.
"Representative government is inefficient. It's designed to be that way," Myers said, pointing out that dictatorship would actually be the most efficient form of government.
Murphy said the issue seems to be a personal battle against the current administration and is not appropriate.
"This is a poor way to address a perceived problem," Murphy said. "I would like to keep the status quo. I'll be voting no."
On the school roof bond issue, which Borough Mayor Dave Carey lobbied for on Tuesday, the candidates agreed that now is the time to act.
"The maintenance on these buildings is going to happen," Murphy said. "It would be shortsighted of us not to approve funding at this time knowing we can get 70 percent reimbursement from the state."
Candidates for the other two open assembly seats, Central and Nikiski, are running unopposed. Brent Johnson is running for the Central seat while Raymond Tauriainen is running in Nikiski.
Election day is Oct. 5.
Andrew Waite can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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