Patti Mackey, Agnes Moran and Peggy Wilson all will be on the Aug. 28th Republican primary ballot. Each hopes to garner enough votes to become the GOP candidate this fall for the brand new House District 33.
Wilson, the incumbent representative from Wrangell, is campaigning for the first time in Ketchikan following the state’s recent redistricting.
Previously, Ketchikan was in District 1, and Wrangell was part of District 2. The new District 33 includes both of those boroughs, parts of Prince of Wales Island and Hyder.
At Friday’s forum, the three women answered about a dozen prepared questions, ranging from economic development to which historical Alaskan they would like to have dinner with.
The candidates had similar answers to many of the questions, differing primarily in their background and experience.
Mackey is executive director of the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau. She said she was urged by fellow Rebublicans to run for office, and with her sons grown it seemed like the right time.
“I feel sometimes that Ketchikan and southern Southeast Alaska are misrepresented, and I intend to change that with positive representation,” she said.
Moran, a Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly member, said she is an electrical engineer by training, and would bring strong problem-solving skills to the position.
“The reason that I decided to run in this election is because it became very evident to me during my time on the Borough Assembly how critical it is for us to have strong representation at the state level for our community and our district,” she said. “We’ve had that on the Senate side for quite a while, but we haven’t had it on the House side.”
Wilson has been an elected House representative for 12 years. She said it’s important to have strong, experienced leadership for Southeast Alaska.
“The last two years, I’ve been in leadership and I’ve seen how that makes a difference and I don’t want that to stop,” she said. “I want to be able to continue to do some things and make some things happen for our communities and for Southeast. And that’s why I decided to run again.”
Regarding economic development, Mackey touted tourism, Moran mentioned mining, mariculture and the shipyard; and Wilson talked about hydroelectric power. She said power is needed for any economic venture.
“We need to make that sure we get those links all the way up and down Southeast, get the backbone in place so that we have power when we need it,” she said. “There’s lots of different places across Southeast that have lakes, and alpine lakes.”
The candidates were asked about relationships they’ve built at the state level that could help them succeed in office. Mackey said she works closely with state representatives through her position in the Alaska visitor industry. Wilson says her years in office allowed her to build many relationships and gain seniority.
Moran says she has not really established political relationships in state government.
“I think I do bring a fresh face and fresh relationship potential there,” she said. “When you look at what I’ve done on the local level, working on the joint city-borough cooperative relations board, I’ve demonstrated the ability there; and also the ability on the School Board- Assembly borough liaison board. I believe I can take those same talents and translate them to Juneau.”
Bridge to Nowhere
The three candidates each said they oppose the Coastal Zone Management initiative that will be on the primary ballot. They all support the governor’s decision to not establish a health insurance exchange in Alaska; and they approve of a lawsuit the state filed against the EPA over low-sulfur fuel regulations.
They also addressed the so-called Bridge to Nowhere, the planned bridge to Gravina Island that was nixed after it became the poster child for congressional earmarks. The candidates agreed that something needs to happen that will allow development on that island.
Mackey said it’s a topic that she’s talked about many times with visitors and tourism industry officials. She said she’s not satisfied with Ketchikan’s access to Gravina.
“I think there’s great potential for us in Gravina for development, and I am frustrated to the ends of the earth with the fact that you go through New York City, you cross bridges every time you leave the borough and go into another area and they think nothing of it,” she said.
And who would they choose to dine with? Moran and Wilson chose former Alaska Gov. Jay Hammond, and Mackey chose former Sen. Ted Stevens.
Whoever wins the House District 33 GOP primary will face incumbent Rep. Kyle Johansen of Ketchikan, who pulled out of the Republican primary to run as an independent; and Ketchikan’s Matt Olsen, who is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.