Republican Gov. Sean Parnell is ready to run for re-election.
On Wednesday, Parnell’s re-election campaign announced 10 campaign debates starting later this month and culminating in late October.
The debates are the first for Parnell, whose campaign says he has focused on legislative business while his presumed election opponents stump for votes.
For the capital city, Parnell’s schedule has a catch — Juneau didn’t make the cut.
There are three Anchorage debates, two in Fairbanks and one each in Soldotna, Kodiak and Ketchikan. Two additional debates will be held for television.
Parnell campaign manager Jerry Gallagher said seven of the eight confirmed nontelevised debates — including the one in Ketchikan — were the result of invitations.
“Our debate schedule, along with this early announcement, will ensure all Alaskans have an opportunity to learn about our goals for the next four years,” Parnell said in a press release.
Gallagher said the campaign will consider other venues, but added quickly that there isn’t a lot of room in the governor’s schedule.
“We already will have a large number of debates,” Gallagher said about the possibility of adding a Juneau debate. “I don’t want to get expectations up.”
Parnell is expected to face independent candidate Bill Walker, Democratic candidate Byron Mallott and Alaska Constiution candidate J.R. Myers in the Nov. 4 general election. Mallott and Parnell each face challengers in the Aug. 19 statewide primary (Republican Gerald Heikes of Palmer and Democrat Phil Stoddard of Anchorage, according to the Alaska Division of Elections), but both Mallott and Parnell are their party’s presumptive picks for the state’s top spot.
Juneau Mayor Merrill Sanford hadn’t seen Parnell’s release when reached for comment Wednesday, but said he was surprised the the state’s third-largest city was left out of the governor’s schedule.
“There should be one here, and I’d expect there to be one,” Sanford said. “We should be able to hear what they have to say and participate.”
Walker, reached by phone Wednesday, said he and Mallott have already had sprited debates across the state — including one in Juneau — but Parnell hasn’t participated. “He’s hard to pin down,” Walker said of the governor.
The governor’s only spring debates are April 28th and 30th in Anchorage, and the final debate before the primary is slated for August 12 in Fairbanks.
Former Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho, a senior adviser for the Mallott campaign, told the Empire that the Mallott campaign believes there should be a debate in the capital city. Mallott lives in Juneau.
“I don’t believe any one candidate should dictate when and where debates are held,” Botelho said. “The entire state should have access to these debates, and there should be one in Juneau.”
He added that watching a debate on television or online is not the same experience.
“We want a situation where there’s a chance for ordinary citizens to see their candidates in action,” Botelho said, adding that Wasilla, Palmer and Homer were also overlooked.
The first general election debate will be on August 28 in Kodiak, and then the governor will make stops in Ketchikan on Oct. 1 and Soldotna on Oct. 8 before closing out in Fairbanks and Anchorage on Oct. 21 and 28, respectively.
The two additional Anchorage debates have not yet been scheduled, Gallagher said.