Surrounded by candidates who plan on joining the House or Senate majorities if they get elected, Republican House District 34 candidate Jerry Nankervis offered a contrary viewpoint at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Forum on Thursday.
“I am the only Republican running in Juneau,” Nankervis said. “I am the only one that’s going to be inside that Republican caucus advocating for Juneau. There is no one else. A vote for me is like an insurance policy, paid for by the voters who choose to elect me.”
House District 33 Candidates Chris Dimond (an independent) and Sara Hannan (a Democrat) would join the Alaska House Majority, as would Nankervis’ opponent Andi Story. Senate District Q candidates Don Etheridge (an independent) and Jesse Kiehl (a Democrat) would join theirs as well. All of them were present at Thursday’s forum.
The two independent candidates both talked about why they would be in their majorities. Dimond said Juneau deserves the strongest vote possible in the Legislature. Etheridge pointed out that with none of the three current members of Juneau’s legislative coalition (Reps. Sam Kito and Justin Parish and Sen. Dennis Egan, all Democrats) running for re-election, it’s important for voters to know where the two independent candidates could land.
“If I win, I’m going to be in the majority,” Etheridge said. “I’ve already been invited in. I think that’s important, seeing how Juneau’s going to wind up with three brand-new people up there. I think it’s important that somebody be in the majority to make sure that we get what we need and that our voices are heard in caucuses that are in control.”
A packed house at the Moose Lodge took it all in, exchanging glances and taking notes as the candidates ran through a variety of topics that included public safety, an income tax, the Juneau Access project and more.
Perhaps the most timely question involved the Alaska Permanent Fund, as millions of dollars went into bank accounts around the state Thursday. Moderator Mike Satre pointed out that on Thursday, $980 million was sent out via direct deposit to people around the state, and that number will increase as checks go out in the mail. He asked the candidates whether the Permanent Fund should be used to fund state government.
All of the candidates said using the Permanent Fund is a key part of the state’s fiscal plan, and they supported the Legislature’s decision to use that money to balance the budget. Satre pointed out that the Chamber of Commerce’s official position agrees with this. Kiehl and Nankervis both pointed out that the Permanent Fund was originally intended to be used in the state budget.
“In the long term, to have the kind of state we all want to live in, we are going to need to continue to use some of those earnings in a sustainable way to pay for the services we all need,” Kiehl said.
Kiehl went on to say he wanted to constitutionally protect the Permanent Fund Dividend. Hannan said the Legislature should find a way to inflation-proof the dividend.
The Chamber forums always feature a segment of yes-or-no questions where candidates raise their hands to say yes and leave their hands down to signal no. Satre asked if candidates believe building a road out of Juneau is a high legislative priority, and all but Hannan and Kiehl raised their hands. All six candidates said they were in favor of building a second bridge to Douglas Island. Hannan was the only person in favor of Ballot Measure 1, which seeks to increase salmon habitat protections.
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.