There are three candidates vying for the nod in Senate District P. Incumbent Sen. Gary Stevens of Kodiak is facing two challengers.
John Cox is an Anchor Point store owner who is seeking office for the second time.
“My first promise to you, the listeners and the voters, which is that I will never be a career politician,” Cox said. “I never even dreamed of it. And in fact, it's my worst nightmare.”
In 2018, Cox lost the Republican House 31 Primary against eventual winner Rep. Sarah Vance. Cox says he’s focused on listening to the people of the southern Kenai Peninsula.
“My only focus this race has been to listen to you, and absorb the task and motions for each, that you, and more than 30,000 neighbors from our district, are expecting of me if I'm elected for a legislator,” Cox said. “This has made me wonder, is my straight forward approach really politically correct? Or is it my biggest asset in a race that demands a better Republican?”
One way to be a better Republican, Cox says, is to stop hindering the work of the governor in distributing Permanent Fund Dividend checks.
“The abrupt and personal attack on the Alaskans, whose only mistake is trusting that what was given to them was actually permanent. This high profile issue, like these, that make it necessary,” Cox said. “We need to stop stabbing our governor in the back and put individuals in that will help him.”
Greg Madden, a Soldotna chiropractor, moved to Alaska from Texas in 2011. He’s running on the Alaska Independence Party ticket. He lost a bid for House Seat 31 two years ago. He’s running on a God-and-PFD platform.
“I want to have a full PFD or everyone, and I want to restore what was diverted,” Madden said. “Now that's not going to be easy and it might take awhile to make those things happen. But part of that would be smaller government, not growing it. No new taxes. Any new tax should be brought before the people for a vote.”
He believes infrastructure spending should take priority over all other state spending.
“If we've got money to do these other things, the infrastructure should be done first. And that includes plowing. That includes airports, the tunnel, the bridges, all these things are part of it,” Madden said. “And I think that part of how we can get back to these things and still make it all work, we need to emphasize families, friends, neighbors, neighborhoods, and churches.”
Madden is a member of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board and says he is a part-time preacher.
“When we got rid of God as a society, so to speak, there've been a lot of ramifications coming down the line that we don't want to have,” Madden said. “We need to turn that back around and encourage these things and try to enhance them what we can.”
Incumbent Sen. Gary Stevens of Kodiak is a retired University of Alaska professor, and has served in the state house and as Senate President, where he dealt first-hand with the state’s oil tax regime and Permanent Fund Dividend policy.
“Easy answers, bumper sticker solutions are simply not good enough anymore,” Stevens said. “I offer proven, experienced leadership. I know our communities well, having served for 13 years at city mayor, borough mayor and school board president, as well as in the House and the Senate. That helps me to understand the challenges our communities face. And experience counts. This is a job I would like to continue with your support. Tough decisions must be made.”
Stevens emphasizes the health and future of the Permanent Fund itself, over large dividend checks.
“A full PFD, remember, cost the budget over $2 billion. Finding the money needed for a full PFD without overdrawing the Permanent Fund is not going to be easy,” Stevens said. “We have to protect that permanent fund for our children and our grandchildren. We cannot let it disappear with our generation. Our future is uncertain if we do not face that reality.”
Stevens says balancing the state’s budget will be harder than ever next year because Alaska can no longer rely on oil for its revenue.
“In 2011, 90 percent of our revenues were from oil. Today, only 17 percent. A shocking drop. The rate of return on the Permanent Fund is right around 2 percent this year, nowhere near what it has been in the past,” Stevens said. “Clearly we must cut our budget further. We need to face reality. How are we going to pay for the things we need? Everything must be on the table. How do we provide the services people want -- schools, police protection, Marine Highway System, school, social programs, and the Permanent Fund Dividend?”
The comments made by the candidates came from a forum last week put on by Kenai Peninsula Votes and aired on KBBI.