HE’S FOCUSED ON RESTORING PERMANENT FUND DIVIDEND, CUTTING BUDGET
It was 1980, the year John Lennon was shot. The year Mount St. Helens blew. And the year that young Richard Walker, barely 20, sold his ’69 Chevy Impala, bought a plane ticket, and headed for Alaska.
Walker started out as a dishwasher and bouncer in Spenard, working at La Mex restaurant. But he kept bugging the laborers union shop until he was headed for the North Slope and at age 21, became a roughneck, working in the oil patch for eight years.
Then a back injury on a rig took him out of the field and into environmental response and cleanup work. His company sent him to Kodiak, and he’s called it home nearly ever since. He loves Kodiak.
Walker is now running for House District 32 against incumbent Rep. Louise Stutes, who lost the endorsement of her fellow Republicans for organizing with the Democrats to control the House and try to force an income tax on Alaskans once she got to Juneau.
Stutes voted in favor of the income tax, HB 115, which other Democrats in the House favored. It failed in the Senate, which is under the control of Republicans.
Under Stutes preferred state income tax, a person making $50,000 a year would have to pay the state $992.50 plus four percent of anything they made in excess of $50,000 up to $100,000, where the next step of progressive taxes would kick in. The plan was prepared to hire up to 60 state tax collectors to enforce the law.
Stutes also voted in favor of SB 91, the controversial criminal justice reform that many Alaskans believe has led to more illegal drug trafficking, property theft, and violent crime in Alaska. SB 91 has been revised through other legislation since its passage, with some of its more criminal-friendly parts trimmed. But crime is still at a near-record high, although less so in Kodiak.
Stutes, who owned a bar for 25 years, also proposed legislation to cut serving limits at Alaska breweries from 36 ounces to 24 ounces per day and at distilleries from 3 ounces to 2 ounces per day, something that was widely panned by craft breweries and distilleries. These are some of the only industries in the state that have been adding jobs during the current recession.
Walker’s time in Kodiak — from 1991-2002 and 2005-present — has been centered on family and community service. His wife has a big family in Kodiak, and together they have six grown children, 35 grandchildren, and too-many-to-count nieces and nephews.
He’s a member of the Elks Club, and part of the group that started the youth football program. Over the years he has raised thousands of dollars for youth football in Kodiak. He is also active with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.
Walker was elected to the Kodiak City Council for six years, and has served on the Parks and Recreation Board. He ran for House in 2014, and he’s decided it’s time to try again.
“We have to really start tightening up on the budget,” he told the local radio station. “I wasn’t in favor of cutting our Permanent Fund [dividend]. Our resources in the state of Alaska are abundant, and we’re not even hardly touching them.”
CAN HE BEAT THE INCUMBENT?
Walker’s 30-day fundraising report to the Alaska Public Offices Commission shows local support. He raised $6,555, compared with Louise Stutes, the Republican who organizes with the Democrats, who raised $7,125 in her latest report. But she started with $13,000 and she also has the support of large labor unions, which will fund radio and newspaper spots for her.
Walker has a radio spot of his own running now, paid for by the Alaska Republican Party, characterizing Stutes and her band of PFD pirates as thieves, and promising to right the ship if he’s elected in the Primary, Aug. 21, and the General Election on Nov. 6. The pirate brogue in his campaign spot is “five-star aaaargh”: