Candidates forum gets testy at times - Must Read Alaska
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Sunday, January 24, 2021
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Candidates forum gets testy at times



The Anchorage Republican Women’s Club “Visions for Victory” brought out 20 candidates and 50 spectators on a sunny Thursday evening to hear the likenesses and differences between Republicans running for seats in the Anchorage bowl.

Emcee Bernadette Wilson was the elegant drill sergeant for the event at The Center on Arctic Blvd., keeping a tight rein on the microphone, while asking candidates some tough questions — many were Yes or No, as indicated by a paddle candidates had with a Yes printed on one side, and No on the other.

If you want to hear the differences between the 20 Republicans at the “Visions for Victory” forum, check out the MRAK livestream video now posted at @mustreadalaska on Facebook. 


The Cliff Notes version is that all of the candidates who appeared at the event pledged to not join a Democrat-led caucus, and most were in favor of repealing SB 91. Incumbents who attended, with the exception of Lora Reinbold (running for Senate), argued that some penalties in SB 91 are actually harsher than previous statute, so the entire bill doesn’t need to be repealed, but simply needs more repairs. They eschewed “bumper-sticker politics” on SB 91.

During the “Yes or No” paddle section the questions were tough:

  1. With republican behind your name, conservative voters across Alaska will presume you  possess a very particular set of values. Yes or no: Do you support all aspects of the Republican Party platform, including but not limited to the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, and the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman?

All candidates with the exception of Kelly Merrick raised a “Yes” paddle to answer that question.

Candidates in the forum answer the first yes-no question about whether they support all aspects of the Republican platform, including the definition of life from conception to natural birth and definition of marriage.

2. There’s a lot of debate about how much to cut out of the budget, and where. Would you spearhead and prime sponsor legislation to audit the entire State of Alaska and Legislature and it’s subsidiaries?

Candidates indicated unanimously they would prime sponsor legislation to audit the State of Alaska and its subsidiaries.

3. It is widely expected that several resource tax increases will be introduced next year. Will you support these new taxes on resource development?

The answer was unanimous: No.

4. Stand for Alaska has formed to oppose the Stand for Salmon ballot measure. In November will you vote Yes or No on ballot measure 1, Stand for Salmon?

The answer was unanimous: No.

5. Over 27 percent of the people in the state are now Medicaid recipients. Will you prime sponsor legislation to scale back Medicaid and other federal funding addictions?

The answer was unanimous: Yes.

6. Will you prime sponsor legislation to make Alaska a right-to-work state?

The answers were more varied, with Kelly Merrick, Josh Revak, Chuck Kopp, and Connie Dougherty saying they would not prime sponsor right-to-work state legislation.

Other quick candidate forum observations:

District 14: Kelly Merrickand Eugene Harnett were a study in contrast in style and substance, with Merrick winning points for overall polish, and Harnett showcasing his longtime history with the District 14 Republican Party. Candidate Jamie Allard skipped the forum due to surgery.

District 22: Sara Rasmussen came plain-Jane with glasses and non-glamorous attire, and said she is the best candidate to beat Jason Grenn, while Liz Vazquez emphasized her education (two masters degrees and a law degree) and experience, yet this time avoided attacking the young woman seated right next to her by calling her a girl. Rasmussen scored points for down-styling and upsold her negotiating skills (mother of a two-year-old).

Meanwhile, in District 22, Grenn had a huge campaign kickoff party attended by over 100 people, including the governor. But Grenn’s parents were at the Republican forum, checking on the competition.

District 24: Rep. Chuck Kopp fended off heavy fire from challenger Steve Duplantis over his vote against a full repeal of SB 91. As a 25-year police officer, Kopp took exception to being characterized as soft on crime. Kopp, for his part, pointed out that Duplantis has lived in the district for just 18 months and, being as he is from Louisiana, doesn’t understand the context of how District 24 has developed. It was testy.

District 25: Josh Revak introduced himself to the audience in his first big reveal since filing against Rep. Charisse Millett. He used the opportunity to talk about his hard-knocks formational experiences growing up, as a combat veteran, and aide to Sen. Dan. Sullivan. Millett, who has the party pre-primary endorsement, skipped the forum and did door-to-door, planting yard signs, (and said she planted so many last night she had to order more.)

District 26: Joe Riggs went on the offense against opponents Al Fogle and Laddie Shaw. He characterized Shaw as a sometimes-Republican, and Fogle profits from health insurance employee benefit packages. Fogle said Shaw had received a donation from former Gov. Tony Knowles (a Democrat). It was fiery.

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Written by

Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

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