SWEET – Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School students Karmen Kane, right, and Sophia Stark make chocolate-dipped strawberries Wednesday night during the Keet Family Night. Hundreds attended the event, which included a chili dinner, activities and heart-shaped cookies. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Election Choices

The adage “expect the unexpected” has seldom been as apt as it has proved to be in this year’s election for governor.

Gov. Bill Walker, facing stiff opposition for re-election, was dealt a body blow when former Sen. Mark Begich won the Democratic primary, which Walker had bypassed.

Begich was widely seen as a spoiler who would steal votes from Walker and ease the path to the governor’s office for conservative Republican Mike Dunleavy. Then, with the forced resignation of Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott and Walker out of the running, the one-time spoiler has become, in our opinion, our best hope to keep the state on an even keel in still-perilous times.

We liked and admired Gov. Walker for his brave decision to use reserves from the Permanent Fund to stabilize government finances after cutbacks in services proved insufficient to stop the state’s slide toward fiscal bankruptcy. He’d have won our vote if he were still a candidate.

The voters’ choice is now Begich or Dunleavy, and Begich has our vote.

As mayor of Anchorage and in six years as U.S. Senator, Begich has shown himself to be an able public servant. More to the point, he has not, to our knowledge, made campaign promises that cannot be carried out.

Mr. Dunleavy is promising a full Permanent Fund dividend and a budget balanced through government cutbacks, resource development and no new taxes. Great promises, but in our opinion completely unrealistic. He’s made no promises to Sitka – he is the first major candidate for governor since statehood not to campaign here – but from what we have learned, state funding for education is one of those items that he has in his sights for cutbacks.

Dunleavy as governor would not, in our opinion, be good for Sitka.

For state House, our choice is Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins. With three terms under his belt JKT has proved to be an effective advocate for Sitka. His membership in the bipartisan majority coalition, which is likely to prevail in the House after this election, gives him an increasing leadership role in the House as well as an influential voice for the state’s coastal communities.

We expect Ballot Measure No. 1, the Stand for Salmon initiative, to pass handily in Sitka. This is a town built on salmon, and when the public hearing on the initiative was held here, no one came forward to talk against it.

If passed it will enact salmon habitat protections that far exceed those already in place. That would be a good thing, but a close reading of the pages of fine print in this proposed law suggest that this may be a case where we should be careful what we wish for. Public and private projects of all kinds will be more expensive and take longer to build, and there will be a cost to that. Will the new protections be worth the cost that all of us will pay if this passes? Time will tell.

We will comment finally on the race for U.S. House. Don Young has earned the right to a happy retirement with our thanks for his many decades of service for Alaska.

This may not be the year for that to happen, but his bright young challenger, Alyse Galvin, is our choice for Congress in this election.


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