HOMER -- Republican Drew Scalzi said the major difference between he and his Democratic Party opponent, Amy Bollenbach, is his experience in public office
Bollenbach may be dedicated in her own right, Scalzi said, but she lacks the kind of legislative experience his eight years on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly as well as his participation in the politics of the fishing industry have afforded him.
"I know what my purpose is in this, because of my involvement and experience in dealing with all these issues at the local level, and also in fisheries issues where I am strong. Fisheries is my background and a big part of this state." Bollenbach joined the race for the August primary late, Scalzi said, because she did not want to see a Republican go unchallenged for the important legislative seat. She's been trying to catch up on the issues ever since.
"I don't think that's enough reason to run and be a viable candidate," Scalzi said. "To be a viable candidate, you need to have a strong background in dealing with the issues, and not just pick things up as you go along. Anybody can run for office if you do the homework as you go along. That's not enough. You have to have demonstrated that you have some background in working on some very tough issues, divisive issues that you have demonstrated you can get resolved."
Scalzi is a member of the North Pacific Fisheries Association and holds a seat on the International Pacific Halibut Commission. He noted past crab strikes and the battles over individual fishing quotas.
"Those were divisive, and I was right in the middle of them," he said.
Scalzi has been a member of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly since 1992.
Before that, he held a seat on the South Peninsula Road Service Area Board before the assembly melded the separate regional road service areas into one. He has served on the Alaska Coastal Policy Council.
Scalzi said he would seek consensus and compromise in the Alaska House, but will stick to his principles and be his own man when it comes to involvement with a party or coalition caucus.
"I don't look at people as Repub-licans or Democrats. You're there for the good of the people of the state -- at least that's why you should be there. I think my opponent is a little more involved in party issues. It's true I'm a Republican and share a lot of the philosophies of the Republican Party, but more importantly, this isn't the Republican state of Alaska. It's the state of Alaska. Alaska comes first."
Scalzi views himself as a moderate Republican, conservative on fiscal matters but more liberal on social issues. "Yeah, I consider myself a moderate. That's one distinction that people always want to grasp -- that they're a Republican, therefore they're not moderate. Moderates run the world. That's where most people are. It's the middle. I'm not ashamed of being in the middle at all. That's where consensus is."
He said he has some of the same questions about caucus politics as others have -- how one might react if asked to sacrifice one's principles on any one bill in order to forward the caucus agenda as a whole.
Scalzi said he is confident he will be able to resist such pressures, even if it meant bucking the majority of his own party.
Scalzi said he's discussed the issue with the current District 7 seat holder, Rep. Gail Phillips, as well as other House Republicans, and was told that the caucus wants adherence to the party line when it comes to the final budget bill, preferring that members don't try to tack on "wild amendments."
As for other bills, he was told lawmakers are free to vote their beliefs.
"I said 'good,' because I couldn't join a caucus otherwise," Scalzi said.
There is a lot of misconception about caucuses, Scalzi said. Closed-door sessions may appear to be less than open government to some, but they serve a purpose.
"I've talked to others who said it was a good place for us to ... yell and scream when we don't want to do that on the floor because of the integrity of the Legislature," he said.
Scalzi said he believes his record on the assembly demonstrates he is capable of sticking to his principles. That doesn't mean he won't be open-minded or that he couldn't be convinced to change his mind on an issue when presented with a good argument, he said.
"What may be perceived as me flip-flopping may be that I've seen other arguments," he said.
Scalzi said he will view all bills with a skeptical eye. He has found that things that look good on the surface may not be.
"When something comes along, my first reaction is 'well, what is this crap and why do we need another law?'" he said. "I'm suspicious. I'm not one to just jump on a bandwagon. Why should I? When I put my name on a bill, I want people to say, 'He's got integrity, and he's supporting this. It's worth taking a look at.'"
Scalzi said he thinks he has a good record on education on the assembly, which has consistently voted to fund education to the limit of the law, even going outside the state cap where it could.
Scalzi said he will vote "yes" on Ballot Measure 1 to prohibit voter initiatives concerning wildlife and he will vote "yes" on Ballot Measure 2, adopting a constitutional amendment prohibiting the courts from altering the language of future ballot propositions.
Scalzi also will vote "yes" on Ballot Measure 3, which will require the directors of public corporations handling millions of dollars in state assets be confirmed by the Legislature and require that they can only be removed for cause. Under the law, board members of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. would not require legislative confirmation, but could only be removed for cause.
Scalzi said he will vote "no" on the 10-mill property tax cap, Ballot Measure 4. He also said he opposes Ballot Measure 5, the marijuana initiative. He will vote "no" on Ballot Measure 6, a referendum that would overturn a law allowing same-day land-and-shoot hunting of wolves.
Hal Spence is a reporter for the Homer News.
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