By CASSIE LAWVER / CORRESPONDENT
The first forum was broadcast by KBBI, Homer’s public radio station, during the “Coffee Table” show hosted by Kathleen Gustafson. Over the years, KBBI has not been kind to Rep. Sarah Vance. But then, KBBI is generally not kind to any conservative who enters the KBBI broadcasting universe.
Cooper appeared comfortable and confident as she spoke to the liberal radio audience, her answers aligning with the perspective of left-of-center public radio listeners.
Rep. Sarah Vance spoke with confidence as well. She was prepared for the questions, as well as the follow-up grilling that is Gustafson’s trademark for those who don’t share her opinions.
Gustafson, Homer’s liberal sword for the left, once famously berated Gov. Sarah Palin, when Gustafson unfurled a large sign that read “Worst Governor Ever” during a Palin visit to Homer. Palin approached Gustafson to be friendly, and the two had a lively exchange captured on video and shared around the world:
Gustafson: You swore on your precious Bible that you would uphold the interests of this state, and then when cash was waved in front of your face, you quit.
Palin: OH, you wanted me to be your governor! I’m honored! Thank you!
This was the nature of the trap Vance was walking into on Wednesday, and the questions offered by Gustafson were to be expected.
Most questions to Rep. Vance were prefaced with Gustafson commentary, such as “Representative Vance, you have been posing for pictures all over the state, indoors without a mask at Republican functions….”
The mask question to Kelly was softer: “Do you mask when…you’re wearing a mask right now…”
At one-point, Gustafson interrupted Vance to repeat a question, as Vance was trying to answer it. That badgering did not happen when Gustafson spoke to Cooper.
Through it all, Vance stuck to the facts, with courtesy and confidence, answering every question in what was clearly a hostile environment.
Seven hours later the two were at the Homer Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum, held at the Land’s End Resort.
The chamber had been advertising the forum as “in-person” or “live stream.” But less than 24 hours before the event, candidate Cooper asked the chamber to not allow people to attend.
Thanks to a couple of conservative media groups, Peninsula Radio Group and Must Read Alaska, this reporter was able to attend this forum as their correspondent.
This forum was different from the KBBI approach.
Cooper appeared uncomfortable and while she maintained confidence, her voice lack the excitement and warmth she had while sitting in the KBBI studio talking to the liberal listeners. The chamber forum consists of questions submitted by businesses in the city of Homer.
Vance and Cooper agreed on 4 issues: the Homer deep water port; marine services; voting no on Ballot Measure 2; and moving legislative sessions to somewhere on the road system.
On other issues they disagreed.
Right to life was one of those issues. Cooper is pro-choice. She believes government should not be involved in a woman right to choose or reproductive health.
Vance is pro-life. She believes a child is a gift and we should honor and value life. Women should be supported all along the way and given all
options. Vance supports family unity and adoptions.
One question Cooper never answered was whether she would join a “binding caucus.”
Vance said she was a firm “no” on the binding caucus. When it came to Cooper’s time to answer the question, she instead asked Vance a question about her joining the Republican caucus.
Vance explained that a caucus is a group of like-minded people and that is what she joined with fellow Republicans. What she did not join is a “binding caucus,” which she said would require her to sell her vote on the budget to the majority leader.
After the business owner questions, candidates had five minutes to talk about whatever they wanted. Vance spoke about how she seeks good governance. Cooper used the time to talk about the pandemic. She relies on the science and wears a mask to protect others. She ended by asking others to show a little more grace.