Former Assembly member Karen Crane, left, talks with Assembly candidates Carole Triem, Alicia Hughes-Skandijs and Greg Smith, right, before an Assembly and school board candidates forum at KTOO on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. The event is sponsored by the Juneau League of Women Voters. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Former Assembly member Karen Crane, left, talks with Assembly candidates Carole Triem, Alicia Hughes-Skandijs and Greg Smith, right, before an Assembly and school board candidates forum at KTOO on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. The event is sponsored by the Juneau League of Women Voters. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Candidates strut their stuff at election forum

Candidates for Assembly, school board answered questions before a live audience

All the candidates in the upcoming election were gathered under one roof Tuesday night at the Municipal Elections Forum at KTOO.

Assembly and School Board candidates took to the stage to answer questions prepared by the League of Women Voters of Juneau and the public. The event was co-moderated by the Empire and KTOO.

There wasn’t a lot to distinguish candidates from one another. Of the four candidates for Assembly, only one — Greg Smith — isn’t already serving in that capacity. The candidates for Assembly are Carole Triem, Smith, Alicia Hughes-Skandijs and Wade Bryson.

Those candidates already serving frequently cited the work of the Assembly as an example of their fitness for office, but they often cited the same initiatives.

Assembly candidates Carole Triem, left, Greg Smith, Alicia Hughes-Skandijs and Wade Bryson share a light moment during a candidate forum at KTOO on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. The event was sponsored by the Juneau League of Women Voters. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Assembly candidates Carole Triem, left, Greg Smith, Alicia Hughes-Skandijs and Wade Bryson share a light moment during a candidate forum at KTOO on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. The event was sponsored by the Juneau League of Women Voters. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

While there weren’t large differences in overall policy areas, candidates did try to distinguish themselves in the details of achieving those policy outcomes.

When the question turned to senior housing, Triem suggested also focusing on creating an environment where young people wanted to, and could, live in.

“In tandem with senior housing, we need to have the health care workforce to support seniors,” Triem said.

All candidates said that working with local nonprofits was a good way to combat homelessness, but only Bryson brought up education as a means of keeping people off the street.

“We need to make sure we have great education so we can prevent future homelessness,” he said.

All the candidates running for Assembly will be seated on that body. Two of the candidates, Smith and Hughes-Skandijs, are running for seats in the same district (District 1). The winner of that election will serve a three-year term while the runner-up will serve one.

School board

The Juneau Board of Education candidates, who took the stage for the second portion of the forum, showed a bit more diversity in their answers but there was still a lot of consistency amongst the responses.

Candidates were similarly united in what they thought was important — early childhood education was a frequent topic — but how the district would pay for various programs was something individual candidates could expand on.

“We need to look at efficiencies, and not just cutting programs,” Bonnie Jensen said in response to a question about avoiding budget overruns.

Running for school board are Deedie Sorenson, Martin Stepetin, Jensen and Emil Mackey.

Juneau School Board candidates Deedie Sorensen, left, Martin Stepetin, Sr., Bonny Jensen and Emil Mackey, right, respond to questions during a candidate forum at KTOO on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. The event was sponsored by the Juneau League of Women Voters. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Juneau School Board candidates Deedie Sorensen, left, Martin Stepetin, Sr., Bonny Jensen and Emil Mackey, right, respond to questions during a candidate forum at KTOO on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. The event was sponsored by the Juneau League of Women Voters. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Replying to a question asking whether at least one online course should be made mandatory for high school students, Emil Mackey said regardless of how effective distance learning actually was, “it’s coming.”

“If we keep inadequately funding education,” Mackey said, “we’re headed there whether we want to or not.”

None of the school board candidates said they would make online learning mandatory.

There are two school board seats open this election cycle, and no incumbents are running. The two board members whose seats will be vacated, Steve Whitney and Dan DeBartolo, both declined to seek re-election.

Election day is Oct. 1.

Watch a video of the forum here.


• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com.


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