Before the start of her town hall meeting, Alyse Galvin led her audience in a team-building exercise.
“I’m going to need everyone to move about a foot forward,” she said, encouraging attendees to make space for more chairs in Centennial Hall’s Hammond Room.
“What a great problem to have,” she said.
About 80 people gathered Sunday to listen as the independent candidate answered questions from Juneauites and explained her attitudes toward health care, the environment and education, among other topics.
Galvin arrived in Juneau for a one-day campaign swing on the eve of early voting, which begins Monday. Galvin is attempting to unseat incumbent Republican Rep. Don Young, who has been in office since 1973 and has earned the title “Dean of the House” for being the longest-serving currently active member of the House of Representatives.
Polls indicate Young is favored to win re-election, but those same polls also show a tightening race between Young and a woman who was eight years old when he was first elected to Congress. In the latest Alaska Survey Research poll, which had a four-point margin of error, Galvin trailed Young by just two points among likely voters. Galvin raised more money than Young during the most recent Federal Election Commission reporting period, a measure of grassroots support.
“When I said we could be making history here, you know I wasn’t kidding,” Galvin told the audience after referring to her polling.
Attendees were asked to write their questions on slips of paper, which were read by a campaign volunteer.
Asked about her health care plans, Galvin discussed the need for access to cheaper medications. She said she supports allowing the federal government to negotiate prices with drug companies and said she supports allowing Americans to buy drugs where they are cheaper, such as in Canada or the European Union.
Galvin criticized Young for his actions to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
“ACA has been peeled apart. In fact, our current representative voted to take away health care, particularly for pre-existing conditions, 56 times, without any sense of what to replace it with,” she said.
Young has previously said he supports protections for pre-existing conditions and that he believes repealing the Affordable Care Act is a necessary first step to replacing it.
One audience member questioned Galvin about her support for in-state teacher training. How does she plan to do that?
Galvin didn’t directly answer the question but spoke more generally about the need to “grow our own” workers for industries including health care, education and resource extraction.
“We really need to work to grow our own, and some of that is resources,” she said.
Galvin faced questions about climate change and the environment.
“Not doing anything (on climate change) is unconscionable,” she said.
She referred to climate change as a natural disaster and said that if Congress is willing to appropriate money for disaster recovery following hurricanes, it should be doing the same for the effects of climate change as well.
She said she supports “mitigation, not just recovery” when it comes to addressing climate change, but that reliance on oil will not disappear immediately.
Galvin’s husband, Pat, is an executive at Great Bear Petroleum, and she alluded to that fact, saying that many Alaska families, including her own, have members who work in the oil and gas industry.
“I want everyone to understand we’re not going to turn off the oil today,” she said.
Asked whether she supports Ballot Measure 1, Galvin declined to answer the question.
“This one and the governor have come up a lot,” she said. “I’m not going to weigh in, other than to tell you in general how I feel about this forever resource (salmon).”
She said she opposes Pebble Mine and believes the state should restore the Alaska Coastal Management Program.
As the election approaches, Galvin’s campaign schedule is intensifying. On Alaska Day, she was in Sitka. She traveled to Anchorage on Friday for a debate with Young at the Alaska Federation of Natives conference. She toured the Kenai Peninsula by campaign RV on Saturday and flew to Juneau on Sunday.
While in the capital city, Galvin went door-knocking with a group of 20-30 volunteers, met with members of the Inlandboatmen’s Union and held a meet-and-greet at Amalga Distillery.
She is scheduled to return to Anchorage on Monday for a week of campaigning in the state’s largest city before Thursday night’s “Debate for the State” hosted by KTUU-TV and Alaska Public Media.
• Contact reporter James Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 523-2258.