Murkowski, Gara and Walker sit down for interviews with KBBI
Candidates for statewide office have been campaigning throughout Alaska ahead of the November 8 general election. In October, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, and gubernatorial candidates Bill Walker and Les Gara visited Homer to discuss local issues.
Topics ranged from fisheries and infrastructure projects to abortion rights and the Permanent Fund Dividend. One thing that all three candidates agreed on was the importance of funding the city’s Large Vessel Harbor Expansion Project. The City of Homer has estimated the project will cost around $150 million.
“If you're a coastal town like Homer is, you've got to have a harbor that meets the capacity of the demand,” Murkowski said, speaking to KBBI on Oct. 6.
Les Gara, the Democratic candidate in the governor’s race, also mentioned the need for state funding for Homer’s harbor expansion project. He criticized the Dunleavy administration’s fiscal policy and blamed tax subsidies to oil companies for cuts to state infrastructure projects.
“We still give them $1.2 billion a year in oil company tax credits.” Gara said. “And by not having that money, we can't fund our schools. We can't fund fisheries research. We can't fund a construction budget and community project budget — the kind of thing we need if we are going to expand the [Homer] harbor.”
Gara, who is pro-choice, said the stakes for this election are particularly high, especially following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June which overturned Roe v. Wade. The decision ended federal protections for abortion and leaves abortion rights up to individual states to determine.
The Alaska Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that abortion rights are protected under the privacy clause in the state’s constitution. Anti-abortion advocates have discussed writing an abortion ban into the constitution if voters approve a constitutional convention on next week’s ballot. But Gara said there are other ways abortion rights could be threatened.
“You can lose it with a governor's appointment of Supreme Court justices.” Gara said. “We don't have an explicit right to choose in our constitution. We have a right to privacy, but the federal justices on the US Supreme Court said the right to privacy in federal law does not cover a woman's right to choose.”
Both Republican candidates, incumbent Gov. Mike Dunleavy and former Kenai Peninsula Mayor, Charlie Pierce, have opposed abortion rights and support a constitutional convention. Independent Bill Walker, said he is pro-life but that he plans on upholding the Alaska State Constitution and its privacy clause. Walker and Gara oppose a convention.
Walker, who served as governor of Alaska from 2014 to 2018, said Dunleavy’s track record in office is one reason he chose to run again.
“Obviously, if I felt he was doing a good job, I wouldn't have thrown my hat in the ring.” Walker said. “He cut the ferry system, cut education significantly, cut the university — some major things that he did were very disruptive to the state.”
Walker said, if elected, he plans to focus on funding education, childcare and affordable housing.
Pierce declined an interview request from KBBI. Dunleavy canceled a scheduled interview last minute and did not respond to requests to reschedule.
This year’s general election is Nov. 8. More information is available online, using this candidate comparison tool, created by David Purdy and maintained by Alaska Public Media, KTOO, the Anchorage Daily News, and the Alaska Beacon.
If you have questions about the election you can submit a question to KTOO. KTOO is partnering with a team at America Amplified to answer election questions and will be available on Election Day to answer last-minute questions.
You can listen to the full interviews with statewide candidates below.