“What do you think was the best idea ever hatched in Alaska politics?” KTVA-TV’s Rhonda McBride asked the three Alaska lieutenant governor candidates seated in front of her at last Tuesday’s public forum held in the downtown Anchorage YWCA.
“I brought a copy with me. It’s the Alaska state constitution. It’s an act of genius,” answered State Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage, waving a pocket-sized edition of the document in the air. “We don’t have elected judges here. We have appointed judges. We have a strong right to privacy. We have common ownership of our mineral wealth.”
French, a democrat, has served in the Alaska Senate since 2003. He had been eyeing the governorship but in October announced he would be running for lieutenant governor in support of candidate Byron Mallott.
Gubernatorial running mates are made official after the August primary election.
Craig Fleener, who also fielded questions from McBride, will be running in support of former Valdez mayor Bill Walker as an independent and will not be listed on the primary ballot. Fleener, who is Athabascan and was raised in Fort Yukon, resigned from his position of Fish and Game deputy commissioner shortly before announcing his candidacy.
Palmer schoolteacher Bob Williams, who organized Tuesday’s event, is running for lieutenant governor as a democrat also. He cited decreased education funding as inspiration for his candidacy. Williams was recognized State Teacher of the Year for Alaska in 2009.
When McBride asked all three candidates to imagine they were teachers grading the performance of Governor Parnell it was D for French, C-minus for Fleener and F for Williams.
In their grading French and Williams attacked Parnell’s decision not to extend Medicaid in the state and the controversial SB 21 oil tax bill.
“There is absolutely no evidence that changing the tax rate is changing the level of production, so it’s just another example of something that’s wildly inaccurate, misleading and partisan,” Williams said.
All three candidates expressed a strong desire to have a close working relationship with the governor if elected. The lieutenant governor oversees the Division of Elections and certifies state regulations among other duties.
The two republican candidates, Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan and State Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, were not able to attend, but name placards and water glasses were left out on the table just in case.
Several UAA students were among the 40 or so attendees, including president of UAA College Democrats Ceezar Martinson.
“I was impressed with all three candidates. I wish the republican candidates could’ve made it and given their perspectives on where the state is at currently,” Martinson said.
McBride, who has moderated similar events in the past, thought the participation of Sullivan and McGuire would have made for a more balanced discussion.
Current Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell is seeking the GOP nomination to run against Mark Begich for his seat in the U.S. Senate.