The Northern Light considers the tense political climate Alaska is experiencing; a debate in which gubernatorial candidates announced their position on Team Edward vs. Team Jacob was oddly refreshing.
Youth Vote, a student led program sponsored by the League Of Women Voters Anchorage chapter, hosted a debate Monday at West Anchorage High School that included Democratic candidate Ethan Berkowitz, Libertarian candidate William Toien and Republican candidate Gov. Sean Parnell.
Questions were written and ranked by students and ranged a wide variety of subjects.
Minutes into the debate the candidates were asked about their support for gay and lesbian civil unions. Parnell stated he was adamantly opposed to gay and lesbian civil unions, Toien said the government had no business in any marriages of any kind and Berkowitz supported them as a matter of individual liberty.
“It is heart-wrenching to hear the stories of couples who’ve been together for long periods of time (who) are unable to be with each other on their deathbeds,” Berkowitz said.
On another emotional subject, only Parnell stated his support for the recently passed Proposition 2 while the other candidates were both against it.
The candidates were unanimous in their support of 17th amendment, which calls for election of Senators by popular vote rather than by the state legislature.
The amendment has been in the news after Senate candidate Joe Miller stated his support for repealing it. Parnell, who endorsed Miller last month, was asked about Miller’s recent incident involving Alaska Dispatch editor Tony Hopfinger, but was not allotted time to respond.
The subject allotted the most time was Alaska’s resources. Berkowitz offered his concerns on Arctic off-shore drilling and the Pebble Mine project while Parnell said he supported responsible off shore drilling and called into question Berkowitz’ position on the permitting process for the Pebble Mine.
The democratic candidate responded that Parnell had not been proactive enough.
“We’ve got to stop studying renewable energy and start building renewable energy projects,” Berkowitz said.
Both Parnell and Berkowitz agreed on the need for scholarships as a way to build Alaska’s education system. But merit-based scholarships were not enough, Berkowitz said. He called for needs-based scholarships along with universally available pre-school, smaller class sizes and more music and vocational programs.
The Alaska Merit Scholarships, part of a bill Parnell signed into law in May, incorporated needs-based scholarships, according to Parnell. He said merit-based scholarships were the best method.
“I want to call young people higher,” Parnell said. “That’s how you’re going to get ready for college.”
Parnell said the bill was part of his plan to transform education so that control is returned to students and parents.
As for his position on education, Toien pointed to article 10 of “The Communist Manifesto,” which calls for a free and public education for all children.
“Once again, being I’m a libertarian, I want government out of funding education,” Toien said
On a lighter subject, the candidates were asked if they were Team Edward or Team Jacob. Toien and Berkowitz had not seen the movie, but Parnell said he had seen the movie and was Team Edward. On a similar note the candidates listed their favorite movies. Parnell’s was “Band of Brothers,” Berkowitz chose “Casablanca” and Toien listed “V for Vendetta” as his most favorite movie.
As the debate came to a close, the candidates were asked to put their vision for Alaska in one word, a fitting summary to a lively forum. Berkowitz chose a self-reliant, Toien chose freedom and Parnell chose opportunity.