JUNEAU— The Republican candidates for lieutenant governor sought to make distinctions between themselves during a candidate forum at the state GOP convention Saturday.
Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan and Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, are vying to be Gov. Sean Parnell’s running mate later this year. Parnell is not expected to face any real primary challenge.
The state’s current lieutenant governor, Mead Treadwell, is seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.
The forum — the candidates’ opportunity to pitch themselves to party activists — included opening arguments and a question-and-answer section.
Sullivan said he is the only one running for the office with executive-level experience who could hit the ground running as governor. In addition to the traditional duties of lieutenant governor, he would also be interested in working on education reform, he said.
McGuire said she has extensive experience on statewide issues as a lawmaker, noting, among other things, her support for efforts to spur development in Cook Inlet and passage of last year’s oil-production tax cut. She also has a history of working across party lines, she said. If elected, she wants to work to increase voter access, McGuire said.
Both spoke about serving as ambassadors for Alaska.
Lawmakers this past session considered a number of proposed constitutional amendments. When asked which they supported, McGuire cited proposed constitutional changes that would allow public money to be used for private or religious schools and to change the makeup of the Alaska Judicial Council.
She said she wanted innovation in schools and asked why only children from wealthy families should have choice in where they’re sent to school. On the judicial proposal, McGuire drew a reaction from some in the audience when she noted that only public members of the council — whose duties include screening applicants for and nominating to the governor candidates for judicial vacancies — are subject to legislative confirmation, while the attorney members on the council do not have to clear this hurdle.
Sullivan said offering choices in education is fundamentally important.
The two also were asked if they were ready to live in the historic House of Wickersham. A bill designating the building in downtown Juneau as the official residence of the lieutenant governor passed the Legislature last month. The house would remain open to public tours and events under the bill, which was pending review by Parnell.
McGuire said she looked forward to living there and seeing the building open to the public on a regular basis. Sullivan said it wasn’t a problem for him, but he said he expected to be too busy to stay at the house.
There were some light moments. Sullivan, for example, referred to himself as the “original” Dan Sullivan. Former Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan is a Republican hopeful for U.S. Senate, along with Treadwell and Joe Miller.
On the Democratic side, Senate Minority Leader Hollis French of Anchorage and Palmer math teacher Bob Williams are running for lieutenant governor. Byron Mallott is the highest-profile candidate seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.
Craig Fleener plans to run for lieutenant governor as an independent alongside Bill Walker, who is running for governor.