Editor’s Note: Alaska’s state primary elections are on Tuesday, and except for the incumbents, most of the names on the ballot probably aren’t familiar to most Alaskans.
In these last days before the primary, the Empire will be introducing you to the men and women appearing on the Aug. 16 ballot. This is the fifth of six stories devoted to the topic. Look online at juneauempire.com to find the stories that have already run.
The Republican candidates for U.S. House include an incumbent who is one of the longest-serving Representatives in American history and three challengers who say Rep. Don Young has grown out of touch and ineffective.
The winner of Tuesday’s race among Gerald Heikes, Jesse “Messy” Tingley, Stephen Wright and Young will advance to an election in November against independent candidate Bernie Souphanavong and the winners of the Democratic and Libertarian primaries.
Minister for office
Gerald “Tap” Heikes did not return a phone call seeking an interview, but at an early-August candidate forum on the Kenai Peninsula, he described himself a “Constitutional Christian conservative.”
Heikes has been a perennial candidate for office, running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2006, 2010 and 2014. He also ran for U.S. Senate in 2008 but has never been selected as the party’s nominee.
At the Kenai forum, he said he’s running for office “because we need a change in Washington D.C. from the top to the bottom,” the Kenai Peninsula Clarion reported. “Even the Republicans that are in there right now, the majority of them are in the pocket of Obama.”
Heikes has repeatedly spoken out against President Obama. During his 2014 run for governor, he said “the first thing I would do (as governor) is phone (Rep.) Don Young, tell him to get ahold of John ‘Happy Hour’ Boehner and say the governor of Alaska is going to start proceeding on the impeachment of Barack Hussein Obama,” Heikes said in a story published by the Alaska Dispatch News. “I’m just another guy that’s fed up with the system and the way it’s going and people not having any backbone to do anything about it.”
‘Messy’ vows to clean up
Jesse James Tingley of Wasilla goes by the nickname “Messy.”
“My mom kind of started it,” he said by phone. “I was a messy child, and it rhymes with Jesse.”
“I’m good at cleaning up,” he added, referring to the national political situation as well as his personal nickname. “My slogan is, ‘It’s time to clean the House, because it’s become way too dirty.’”
Tingley said his primary goal is “to raise the voice of the silent majority that is fed up with the feds getting in our way every chance they get and wasting our future generations’ tax dollars before they’re even born.”
His biggest issue is federal spending, which he says should be reduced. He believes the space program “is another giant waste of money” and supports ocean exploration instead.
“There should be no shortages (of water) in the world because God gave us a planet that’s two-thirds water,” he said, explaining that he supports desalinization as is employed by aircraft carriers.
“As far as the federal penitentiaries, I think we waste billions of dollars keeping some of these hardcore criminals alive for the rest of their lives,” he said. “I think we need to thin the herd there.”
Tingley supports drug-testing welfare recipients, “and I believe there’s a lot of fraud and waste going on there,” he said.
Tingley said he was offended by a recent federal Fish and Wildlife decision to block Alaska’s predator control program on most federal land. That program, which includes the aerial hunting of wolves (a measure to encourage the growth of prey populations), is opposed by conservation groups.
Tingley believes in taking powers from the federal government and giving them to the states. He supports stronger limits on donations to election campaigns and candidates, adding that he hasn’t taken any money himself.
“My soul is not for sale,” he said.
He believes in a 48-hour waiting period before abortions, and that “people should have to speak with a counselor and be shown a picture of the fetus.”
He believes in expanding firearms rights by permitting felons to have their gun rights restored if they were convicted of a felony that wasn’t a gun crime or murder.
On foreign policy, he suggests the United States embark on one final punitive campaign against ISIS, then pull out of the Middle East.
“If we bring home 70 percent of our troops (from all overseas bases), we can protect our own air, land and sea,” he said.
“I’m not a Constitutional scholar, and I’m not an expert on all of these issues, but what I do know for a fact is if you surround yourself with a great team, that’s when the real winning is done,” he said.
Iraq veteran seeks office
Stephen Wright of Wasilla served 22 years in the U.S. Air Force, including a tour at an airbase outside Tikrit, Iraq.
“It seems like we’re not getting a whole lot done right now as far as Congress is concerned,” he said. “I believe that I would be part of that change that’s needed at this time.”
Wright said he’s concerned that incumbent Rep. Don Young “is getting really old, and he’s mis-voting and not even voting.”
Wright’s son attended Wasilla High School, and Wright said he was stunned when Young “berated the students there” during an infamous 2014 assembly. That assembly is at least part of the reason Wright is running against Young this year.
“I’m just fed up with all the stuff that he’s done and gets away with,” Wright said.
Wright lived in Hyder for several years as a teacher, and he said he would work to see better ferry service.
“I know the ferry system’s important for most people,” he said.
He personally would like to see the ferry system serve Hyder again and would “bring back logging as much as possible” in Southeast.
Wright said he’s concerned with reforms to the Veterans Administration system and wants to see it operate with the same efficiency that the Montgomery GI Bill system does. He’s taken advantage of that program to study at several universities, often taking online courses.
With regard to foreign policy, Wright said he saw in Iraq that the issues aren’t simple. “I think we need to be involved,” he said. “We shouldn’t have fully pulled out (of Iraq).”
When American forces pulled out of Iraq, it led to instability that spread to Syria, then back to Iraq.
“The instability in that part of the world is going to affect us,” he said.
Wright is anti-abortion.
“Even if the mother’s life is in danger, you want to have many opinions before a procedure that is going to take out a life,” he said.
While he has never served in elected office, Wright said his tour in Iraq put him under the authority of two different generals, and he’s able to work at a high level.
“I’m used to dealing with political maneuvering and that kind of stuff,” he said.
Incumbent asks for
Don Young has served as Alaska’s sole Congressman in the House of Representatives since winning a special election in 1973. With 43 years of experience in the House, he has the 12th-longest uninterrupted House tenure in American history.
If elected on Tuesday and again in November, Young has said he will run for another term in office. Making that declaration in a Juneau speech earlier this year, Young said the important thing for Alaska in the U.S. House is experience. Because the House has 435 seats, and Alaska has only one of those seats, it must have an experienced Representative to balance its lack of numbers.
Young supports a broad interpretation of gun rights and has said in campaign statements that “further federal investment in mental health services is the answer” to addressing a rash of mass shootings.
Young served in the U.S. Army and has said he is concerned by “the major failures by the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
A former chairman of the House Committee on Transportation, Young has said that the United States needs to spend more on national infrastructure, even if it means increasing the federal gasoline tax.