2004 Primary Preview - Vote Aug. 24

Primary ballot changes

Voters in Alaska’s Aug. 24 primary election will get to choose one of three different ballots – a change from last year’s primary election resulting from a recent Alaska Superior Court ruling.
Voters will choose one of the three ballots based on their party affiliation.
The Republican Party ballot will only list Republican candidates. This ballot will be available only to registered Republicans and nonpartisan and undeclared voters.
The second ballot is a combined party ballot that will include candidates from the Alaska Libertarian Party, the Alaskan Independence Party, and the Green Party of Alaska. This ballot will be available to all registered voters.
The third ballot, also a combined party ballot, adds candidates from the Democratic Party to the those from the Alaska Libertarian Party, the Alaskan Independence Party and the Green Party of Alaska. This ballot will be available to all registered voters except Republicans.
This year’s three-ballot system is the result of an Alaska Supreme Court ruling in Green Party et al. v. State of Alaska et al. The ruling allowed individual parties to decide if they wanted to appear on a combined party ballot, as well as to specify which voters would have access to their ballot. Parties were given until June 1, 2004 to indicate their ballot preferences to the state.
This change is the latest in a series of recent changes to the structure of Alaska’s primary elections. Last year, the Superior Court allowed parties to appear on a combined party ballot, while in 2002 voters chose from one of six ballots based on their party affiliation.
The state has alternated between different variations on either combined party “blanket” ballots or individual “party-rule” ballots since a “blanket primary” was enacted by referendum in 1947, according to a press release from the state’s Division of Elections.
The News focused on the state House and Senate races. For a look at candidates in other races, including the U.S. Senate and House primaries, go to the Division of Elections website: www.gov.state.ak.us/ltgov/elections/homepage.html

State House District 5 Candidates

Seven candidates have filed to run for the open District 5 seat in the state House of Representatives. The open seat is a result of Rep. Albert Kookesh’s candidacy for state Senate in District C. These candidates filed prior to the June 1 deadline and will run in the primary on Aug. 24. Candidates were asked about issues including the proposed Juneau Access road, balancing the state budget, and school funding during interviews with the News.

DEMOCRATS (four to choose from)

Tim June is a commercial fisherman from Haines, and has worked as a Special Assistant on Oceans and Watersheds to former Governor Tony Knowles, in addition to serving on Haines Borough Assembly and school board.
June said he is “absolutely opposed to the Juneau road,” and he favors strong support of the state ferry system as a transportation alternative.
“One thing I want to focus on is to make the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) a comprehensive and modern mass transit system,” June said.
On the issue of balancing the state budget, June favors further taxation of the oil industry as a source of revenue rather than new taxes on individuals or tapping the Permanent Fund.
“I am adamantly opposed to using the people’s Permanent Fund to support the state. Why would we ask our children to fund state government?” he said.
“I think it would be extremely helpful to have [oil companies] pay a quarterly-estimated tax, just like any other business,” he said.
June would like to see additional funding for Alaska schools. “Especially our rural schools need more funding to balance the cost of operating in remote areas,” he said.
He said schools should provide students with a marketable skill and a solid understanding of different cultures in addition to a strong educational foundation.
June also presented a three-part plan for improving the rural economy: decreased electrical rates, improved telecommunications, and improved transportation through the ferry system.
“Of the candidates that are running, I think I have the longest track record and most experience – I’ve taken a number of issues through from the grassroots level to legislation,” he said.
He said Skagway voters should appreciate his support for local business. “I have a track record that shows I stand up for local businesses when large industries try to enforce their policies on a small community,” he said.
June will be campaigning in Skagway in mid-August.
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Kathy Leary is a library administrator from Gustavus. She has spent nine years on the Chatham District School Board and held various jobs in state government.
Leary expressed doubts that a new road would be the most cost-effective solution for Juneau Access compared to increased ferry service. “I’d be willing to bet that it’s going to cost more to build roads,” she said.
Leary said that with cuts to the Department of Transportation budget, the state is having a hard time taking care of the roads it already has.
“Better ferry service to particularly the villages is very important,” Leary said. She added that privatization of the industry has upset residents of the smaller villages, and said privatization would save money temporarily but would not be good for the state in the long run.
Leary favors a “multi-faceted approach” for balancing the state budget, and supports a statewide income tax and further taxation on the oil industry as alternatives to use of the Permanent Fund.
“I have not heard one person say ‘let’s not have an income tax,’” she said.
She also said she opposes a statewide sales tax. “That belongs to the communities. If we start tacking it on at the state level, no one will come here,” she said.
As a longtime school board member and librarian, Leary is an advocate for education. She said current school funding is “woefully inadequate,” and said school library programs are often the first things that get cut.
“Kids that have library services perform better in school and in life. The research is there and it’s irrefutable,” she said.
She said that while she was grateful for the legislature’s additions to the schools budget last year, it’s not enough. “This is just a start, just the tip of the iceberg, and it hasn’t been inflation-proofed for ten years.”
Leary opposes mandatory borough consolidation in rural Alaska, and she supports power cost equalization for schools and small businesses, and said many schools pay out the equivalent of a teacher’s salary in electric bills. “I also support alternative energy sources such as wind,” she said.
Leary said Skagway residents should vote for her based on her experience. “I’ve been in the state 30 years, and I’ve been involved hands-on on many community, statewide and national issues. I’m a roll up my sleeves and get things done kind of gal,” she said.
Leary was in Skagway campaigning Aug. 6 and said she plans to return next week.
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Dewey Skan, a commercial fisherman from Klawock, has served for the past eight years as a legislative aide to Rep. Kookesh. He has served on numerous committees and councils including the Rural Alaska Community Action Program and the Governor’s Council on Rural Sanitation, and has served as vice mayor and city council member for the City of Klawock.
Skan said the balance between road and ferry transportation is delicate, but he would support the Juneau road if Skagway residents came out in favor of it.
“When you have roads, it certainly enhances the safety of citizens, especially during the winter,” he said.
Skan is opposed to using the Permanent Fund to balance the state budget. “Coming from the coastal communities of District Five, the message I get from citizens is to protect the dividends. I wouldn’t double back on the people’s wishes,” he said.
“We should start looking at people’s salaries within the current administration and start downsizing in order to create a manageable budget,” he said.
Skan said further financial support of schools is one of his goals. “Part of my platform is to provide more funding at the K-12, university, and vocational levels. I’m a big advocate for education,” he said.
Skan said another key issue in his platform is resource development, especially for the logging and fishing industries.
“I believe we should build a natural gas pipeline through Alaska using our own qualified labor force. This will provide jobs for Alaskans rather than taking money out of the state,” he said.
“My goal is to invest in Alaska’s future through good jobs and safe and healthy communities,” Skan said.
He said his 28 years of experience in statewide public service, including eight years as a legislative aide to Kookesh, make him the most qualified candidate. “I’m no stranger to the system,” he said.
Skan said he will drop into Skagway from Haines to campaign during the Southeast Alaska State Fair.
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Kimberly Strong was born in Skagway, and currently runs a bed-and-breakfast in Klukwan. She has served on the Chilkat Indian Village Council and is a board member of Klukwan, Inc.
Strong said she could only support the Juneau Access road if the communities of Haines and Skagway strongly supported it. “We are having a hard time maintaining the roads we currently have – building new roads without a maintenance budget for them is not a good idea,” she said.
Strong said she doesn’t want to see Permanent Fund dividends go to pay for state government. She said that she would support further taxation of the oil industry rather individual sales or income taxes as a solution to the state’s fiscal gap.
Strong also said she supports further funding for schools, and that students in rural Alaska should be able to get an education as good or better than those in urban Alaska. “We’re misplacing our funds if we don’t fund the youth,” she said.
Strong said she would work to figure out ways to provide affordable health care to communities in Southeast Alaska. She supports local control on the issue of borough incorporation, said she would work to extend power cost equalization to schools and small businesses.
“It’s hard to do business when you can’t afford the utilities,” she said.
Finally, Strong said that subsistence should be supported, as it adds to the quality of life in rural communities. “Right now the state considers rural and urban Alaska as one, but rural areas should be given preference in times of shortage,” she said.
Strong said Skagway residents should vote for her based on her strong feelings on local control, power cost equalization, and affordable health care.
“I’m a people person, and I truly want to hear what the individuals in a community have to say,” she said.
Strong said she is planning to campaign in Skagway but has not set a date.

REPUBLICANS (three to choose from)

Gary Graham is a commercial fisherman from Cordova and ran unsuccessfully against Rep. Kookesh for the same District 5 seat two years ago. He has also served for six years on the Cordova City Council.
On the issue of Juneau Access, Graham said that the community, rather than Juneau, should make the call. “The people in Skagway should make that decision. A legislator should not be able to shove it down their throats,” he said.
Graham said he didn’t know where funding for a road would come from, and that he supports increased fast ferry service in Lynn Canal and the Prince William Sound. “I think the fast ferry concept is a sound one,” he said.
To balance the state budget, Graham would support a plan wherein fifty percent of the Permanent Fund payouts would remain as dividends, while forty to forty-five percent would go to schools, and the remainder to communities, rather than to Juneau.
“We don’t have a fiscal crisis, we have a disbursal crisis,” Graham said.
He said the approximately $400 million that could be added to the schools budget from the Permanent Fund would go a long way toward improving education, which he said is currently severely underfunded. “It would take a lot of headache off of the legislators,” he said.
Graham is a strong advocate of Alaska’s fisheries, and said the fishing industry is the state’s number one employer and number two moneymaker. “We need to bolster our fisheries, because when the oil’s gone that’s all we have left,” he said.
Graham said he would work to get regulations for subsistence back under state rather than federal control. He said the federal government has mismanaged Alaska’s resources, citing a regulation that allows subsistence halibut fishers to keep 20 fish per person each day.
“I’m not extreme one way or the other. I have experience and I’m up on the issues. And I’m open-minded” said Graham.
Graham has campaigned in Skagway in years past, and said he plans to visit town extensively if victorious in the primary.
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Doug Rhodes
is a commercial fisherman and educator from Craig. He has served Craig High School for 23 years as a principal and teacher, and was named principal of the year in Southeast Alaska last year. Rhodes also spent five years on the Craig City Council.
Rhodes said he is totally in favor of increased ferry service in Southeast Alaska and would not support the Juneau road barring an outpouring of local support. “Unless the residents in this area can get on board and support it, I just don’t see it,” he said.
While Rhodes said he is opposed to a new statewide sales tax, he would consider looking at a statewide income tax to help balance the budget before tapping the Permanent Fund. But Rhodes also said that all potential sources of revenue are worth discussing. “I think we’ve cut as much as we can cut, there’s going to have to be a new source of revenue,” he said.
As a principal, Rhodes is a strong supporter of education. “I want to see quality education funded at an appropriate level,” he said.
In addition to inadequate funding, Rhodes said schools in Southeast Alaska are also suffering from declining enrollment. “We need to find jobs in industries that support families, so they can stay in Alaska,” he said.
Rhodes said he believes in subsistence, and that he would like to try and get regulations on subsistence back under state rather than federal management.
He also said he would like to get some of the regulations on small-scale fish processing relaxed.
Rhodes said his variety of experience, from education to resource management, as well as his ability to work in a team makes him the best candidate.
“I think that what I bring is an ability to communicate and work well with others,” he said.
Rhodes visited Skagway Aug. 1 to campaign and visit with local residents and businesses.
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Bill Thomas
is a commercial fisherman, a lobbyist and a Vietnam veteran from Haines. He has spent four years on the Haines Borough Assembly and four years on the school board, as well as serving as the director of the Southeast Alaska Fisherman’s Alliance and Klukwan, Inc.
Thomas has been traveling around the district campaigning, and could not be reached for an interview by the News.
In an interview for an earlier issue, Thomas said he opposes new taxes as a means for balancing the state budget.
“We need to research all other avenues before we put additional taxes on people, particularly with the price of fuel so high,” he said.
Thomas also said use of the permanent fund should only be a last resort.

State Senate District C Candidates

Three candidates are vying for the open state Senate seat in District C, the largest state senate district in the United States. The candidates include two current House members, Rep. Carl Morgan and Rep. Albert Kookesh, as well as newcomer Robert “Moose” Henrichs.

DEMOCRATS (two to choose from)

Robert “Moose” Henrichs is a commercial fisherman born, raised and living in Cordova. He has served as president of the Native Village of Eyak for 10 years, in addition to chairing both the Alaska Intertribal Council and Chugach Alaska Corporation.
Henrichs said he is not intimately familiar with the Juneau Access issue, but that he is committed to listening to the community of Skagway about the road. “If the people of Skagway wanted the road, I would be in favor of it. If not, I probably wouldn’t,” he said.
Henrichs said he was wary of using Permanent Fund dividends for state government. “In order to consider tapping the Permanent Fund, I’d have to be assured that we’re spending the money we’re getting now wisely,” he said.
Henrichs said he would be willing to listen to any good ideas about potential revenue sources, but he does not think Gov. Murkowski’s ideas have been wise. “I don’t think we have good chemistry in Juneau,” he said.
Henrichs said he supports increased school funding, particularly at the K-12 level. “You can’t just throw it all at universities,” he said.
One of Henrich’s main priorities is fostering further economic development in rural Alaska, and one way to accomplish development is through improved access to resources. “The people in rural areas need access to the resources around them. I don’t want to see our state locked up,” he said.
He also said that development must involve cooperation between the federal, state, municipal and tribal governments.
Henrichs said his vast experience in tribal and corporate leadership makes him qualified for a Senate seat. “Our tribe is a huge part of the economy in Cordova, and I have a reputation for getting things done,” he said.
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Rep. Albert Kookesh
is now seeking a seat in the Senate after serving for the past eight years as representative in House District 5. He also owns a hunting and fishing lodge in Angoon.
Kookesh strongly supports increased ferry service, and said he would like to see more fast ferries in the AMHS fleet following the initial success of the Fairweather.
But he said the Juneau Access road issue should be decided locally. “It’s a local option. I want the people in Skagway and Haines to make that decision, not Juneau or the state,” he said.
Kookesh said all potential sources of revenue to balance the state budget should be discussed, but that tapping the Permanent Fund should only be a last resort. “People expect their dividend checks, and I’ll do everything I can to protect that,” he said.
Kookesh supports further taxation of the oil industry. “When there’s a huge spike in the price of oil, the state should benefit as much as the oil companies,” he said.
Kookesh also said he would like to discuss a tourism head tax. “I really think the cruise ship industry should be paying more than they are,” he said.
He would also consider an income tax. “Even if we don’t adopt an income tax, we should at least have the discussion,” he said.
Kookesh said inflation has resulted in inadequate school funding, even with the additional school budget approved last year. “Ever since I’ve been in the House we haven’t inflation-proofed school funding,” he said.
Kookesh said this lack of funding has resulted in greater failure of exit exams and teacher lay-offs. He said that a decade ago Alaska was near the top of the scale in teacher salaries nationwide, and now it’s near the bottom. Funding should be increased to attract more quality teachers, he said.
Kookesh recently spent five weeks campaigning in the Interior, and said he plans to visit Skagway in the fall, after the primary.
“I think I have a proven track record and a good relationship with Skagway and its administration. Every time they’ve contacted me I’ve been responsive,” he said.

REPUBLICAN (one candidate)
Rep. Carl Morgan
has served in the state House of Representatives since 1999. An electrician by trade, he served as mayor of Aniak for five years before moving on to state politics.
Morgan said, “I’m generally in favor of new roads,” in response to a question about the Juneau Access issue. “I think the ferry system is a good alternative, but new roads would be the top choice,” he said.
To balance the state budget, Morgan said he would support new taxes before tapping the Permanent Fund. “I’d rather see us going for other resources first, but I generally lean towards taxes, though I can’t be specific about what kind. The Permanent Fund would only be a last resort,” he said.
Morgan said he would like to see increased school funding for K-12 education. “However much we increase the university budget, the K-12 budget should increase at the same rate,”
Morgan said he seeks to promote a healthy rural Alaska through supporting power cost equalization, supporting subsistence, and opposing mandatory borough incorporation. “At this time I don’t believe in more government and more taxes for the people,” he said.
He also said he strongly supports the fishing industry, and would like to see a healthier market for Alaskan wild salmon.
Morgan said working as a committee chairman during his tenure in the House has given him important legislative experience. “I’ve done my term in the House. I feel that in order to represent such a big district, it’s good to have been a chairman,” he said.