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The first local debate of the election season produced more good-natured chuckles than sparks Friday as Republican House candidate Bruce Weyhrauch and Democratic contender Tim Grussendorf found themselves agreeing on issues during a Juneau Chamber of Commerce forum.
Weyhrauch (pronounced "y-rock"), an attorney and longtime civic leader, and Grussendorf, a commercial fisherman and recently a legislative aide, are running for the Mendenhall Valley-centered seat being vacated by veteran Republican Rep. Bill Hudson.
Hudson said voters will choose between "two very good candidates." Neither has an opponent in the primary election.
The questions prepared by Juneau Chamber Executive Director Jamie Parsons were general and didn't apply much pressure.
"We don't want to box any candidate into a corner at this stage," Parsons said. "There'll be time for that later."
Weyhrauch and Grussendorf agreed that keeping the capital and legislative sessions in Juneau is the top priority for the next representative. Weyhrauch was somewhat more specific by calling for the completion of an environmental impact statement on Juneau access, a process that has favored a road up the east side of Lynn Canal to Skagway.
Both candidates say they would follow in Hudson's footsteps by pushing new revenue measures to close the state's $1 billion fiscal gap.
And they stressed the need for Juneau to support resource development, both to maintain political solidarity throughout Southeast and to create jobs that will keep young people from leaving the state.
"The state and Juneau has been closed for business," Grussendorf said. "I think we all realize that. Over the last eight years, we haven't been able to diversify."
Unlike the perception of Democrats in some quarters, he said, "I'm for development, and I'm for jobs."
Bill McAllister can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.