Alaska Candidates Make Last-Day Push

Category: News
Created on Monday, 05 November 2018 16:05
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Associated Press
    ANCHORAGE (AP) — A topsy-turvy governor’s race and a fight for the state’s lone U.S. House seat top the ballot in Alaska.
    Democrat Mark Begich is taking on Republican Mike Dunleavy for governor after the incumbent, Gov. Bill Walker, bowed out.
    In the House race, Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young faces a challenge from independent Alyse Galvin, an education advocate. Galvin hopes to be the first woman to hold the seat Young has held since 1973.
    She said Alaskans want quality, affordable health care, livable wages and to feel heard by their representative. Young, the longest-serving member of the House, has played up his seniority and said he’s still excited by the job.
    Galvin, who has used social media to raise her profile, waved signs with supporters in Anchorage Monday. The vibe was festive, despite the freezing cold. “I feel hopeful, and I’m encouraged, and I’m proud of the many Alaskans who are seeing how important it is that they become engaged if they care about their future,” she said.
    At a GOP rally Sunday, Young warned of socialism creeping into politics on the national level.
    “This is a great nation. We basically have good people,” he said. “Don’t let, I call it the cancer of our society, socialism, take it over.”
    Voters’ decisions on legislative races will determine control of the Alaska House and Senate. And Alaskans will decide on a ballot initiative that supporters say will protect salmon habitat but opponents say is too far-reaching and could hamper development.
    Walker ended his campaign last month, after Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott resigned over what Walker described as an inappropriate overture to a woman. The two remain on the ballot, since the deadline to withdraw was in September.
    But Walker voted early Friday and said he voted for Begich.
    He said he worried Dunleavy would unravel major policy actions, such as expanding Medicaid. Dunleavy said he had “no intention of kicking people off of health care,” but said programs must be properly managed. Begich said he supports expanded Medicaid.
    Libertarian Billy Toien also is running for governor.
    Crime, the economy and the future of the annual checks Alaska residents receive from the state’s oil-wealth fund, the Alaska Permanent Fund, are major issues in the governor’s race.
    Dividend checks have been capped since 2016, first by Walker, then by legislators, as they dealt with the deficit. Dividends are paid using fund earnings, which lawmakers this year began using for government expenses, setting the stage for a political fight over the checks.
    Dunleavy, a former state senator, wants to cut and limit state spending. He said he supports paying residents a full dividend check and paying Alaskans the money they missed out on when checks were capped. Preliminary budget figures suggest that alone could cost about $4.3 billion.
    While oil prices have moderated, at current prices paying a full dividend now would leave a budget gap and could limit the state’s ability to repay the billions of dollars in reserves the Legislature went through to help plug the deficit, said David Teal, a legislative fiscal analyst. But Dunleavy argues the formula for calculating the dividend should be followed and if changes are proposed, Alaskans should get a say via an advisory vote.
    Begich, a former Anchorage mayor and one-term U.S. senator, said the numbers behind Dunleavy’s proposals don’t add up. Begich wants to transfer most of the money in Permanent Fund earnings to the fund’s constitutionally protected principal, to keep lawmakers from looting it. He supports limited withdrawals from the fund based on a percentage of its market value, with part of the money going to dividends and part to education. He wants the dividend constitutionally enshrined.
    Marta Mason of Anchorage said she supports Begich, calling him approachable. “I believe he would be a good governor for everyone,” she said after a Sunday church service.
    John Nelson of Wasilla supports Dunleavy, saying he has vision and integrity.