A member of Ketchikan’s school board has filed to challenge independent incumbent Rep. Dan Ortiz for his state House seat. Republican Leslie Becker pitches herself as a budget hawk with private-sector experience.
With oil prices at rock bottom and the summer tourism season up in the air, Leslie Becker says the state is facing a fiscal crisis.
“Our expenses and our budget are out of control,” she told KRBD Wednesday. “We spend almost twice as much as most other states do per capita for running our state budget, and we don’t have the revenue to support that.”
She said her 35 years of experience as a healthcare executive makes her a good candidate to address the state’s budget woes. She also spent the last year on Ketchikan’s school board, though she said she doesn’t plan to run again when her term expires in October.
Becker also pointed to what she sees as the state’s mismanagement of the Alaska Marine Highway System. The fleet’s sole operating mainliner broke down in January, leaving months-long service gaps across Southeast Alaska.
“We need the ferry system, but the ferry system as it is today is not sustainable,” she said.
She said she’d like to see the marine highway run like a business.
“If your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep becomes your downfall,” she said. “In any business in any business model, you have to have your expenses be less than your revenue.”
Independent Dan Ortiz was elected in 2014 to represent House District 36, which includes Ketchikan, Wrangell, Saxman, Metlakatla and Hydaburg.
The retired schoolteacher said he, too, supports ways to increase ferry revenue, “but it’s clear in the long history of the Marine Highway System that — particularly in the cases where they’re serving outlying communities with very small populations — it’s never going to be a system that pays for itself,” Ortiz said.
And he says making money isn’t the ferry system’s purpose.
Ortiz said he’s glad voters will have a choice in November, but he encourages residents to take a look at what he’s accomplished as a three-term legislator.
“And I will stand on that record — no question that I have a pretty effective spokesperson for the interest of District 36,” he said.
For now, Becker is the sole Republican running for the seat. Other prospective candidates have until June 1 to file. If another Republican joins the race, they’ll face off in the August 18 primary.
The winner of that race will run against Ortiz in the November general election.