Murkowski speaks with students at UAA

Following an afternoon Senatorial debate at the Deni’na Center on Oct. 26, incumbent Lisa Murkowski visited UAA’s student union for a brief meet-and-greet with a handful of students.

Rather than give prepared statements before a crowd Murkowski spoke with students individually, answering any question raised. Questions ranged from ballot measures to her efforts towards renewable energy.

Entering the upstairs of the sparsely inhabited student union, Murkowski began introducing herself to students and University employees; no introduction was given. The senator shook hands and asked students what assignments they were working on. After making her presence known, a small group of people quickly gathered to get a chance to speak with Murkowski.

A small group of high school students from the Southeastern village of Angoon happened to be visiting the University, and as they passed through the Student Union stopped to greet the senator.

“So, do you any of you want to be teachers in the village?” Murkowski asked the group from the Tlingit village, but the group remained silent, shaking their heads and indicating a unanimous ‘no.’

“It means something,” she said.

Murkowski is a strong supporter of Proposition B, which would authorize $397 million in state general obligation bonds to support educational facilities around the state.

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“I am a big proponent of what we need to do with, particularly funding for education. We not only have the two university projects here, but we’ve got some other capital needs within the schools, and needs of rural schools,” Murkowski said. “I recognize that when we talk about growing our own one of the things that allows us to attract good people… is when you’ve got a good institution and good facilities.”

The forum earlier in the day, sponsored by Rotary Clubs of Anchorage and the Alaska World Affairs Council, had gone great, stated Murkowski.

Topics of the debate discussed included foreign affairs and resource development, such as how the state can get a gas pipeline funded.

Gunner Deery, adjunct professor at UAA, asked the senator what plans she had for developing renewable resources in the state. Murkowski mentioned multiple projects, including hydrokinetic energy being harnessed from rivers around the state, turbine power providing energy to the village of Ruby and the potential tidal power of Southeast Alaska.

“As enormous as our reserves are, of oil and gas and coal, those are all finite,” Murkowski said. “We will always have the potential of renewable resources, however. And we have more, in terms of different types of resources, than any place else in the country. So, my desire is to allow us to be the pilot, project center of the world when it comes to renewables.”

Deery remains optimistic about the senator’s claims, but is unsure if she will carry them out.

“I’m not sure what her main issue is. I understand that she’s more or less in bed with big oil money and that sort of thing, so I’m sure she’ll continue to foster that relationship. I would like to see the renewable resources become more of a frontline issue for her,” Gunner said. “Maybe it will, maybe it won’t.”

The three-way race for the Senator in Alaska has garnered a lot of national media coverage due to the actions of Tea Party candidate Joe Miller and Murkowski’s write-in campaign. This has not taken away from the issues, according to Murkowski.

It depends where you’re looking for your news, the senator stated.

“The debate that we had at Fairbanks…Boy there was a lot of substance there. It was all good, solid issues,” Murkowski said. “I think we got the same at the Deni’na Center today. Often times what happens is you have the media that creates more of an issue than the issue really is, and they’re the ones that have the power of the pen…So, that’s what people read and think there is nothing going on except the personal back and fourth. That’s why candidates spend as much money as they do, on the air (television) trying to get the issues out.”

With a long history of political campaigns under her belt, the incumbent stated she believes that the current race has generated a level of negativity that she has never witnessed before, and added that outside influences are not helping either.