Race seeks to unseat Kerttula

Republican said he's in a better position to get laws passed than a member of the minority

Posted: Monday, August 19, 2002

Democratic incumbent Beth Kerttula and Republican opponent Mike Race will face off for a third time in the race for the state House seat representing downtown Juneau, Douglas, Lemon Creek and the Juneau Airport area.

Neither candidate faces a challenger from their respective parties in the Aug. 27 primary. That means they'll be the only candidate for the Distrcit 3 seat on their parties' ballot.

Kerttula defeated Race with 64 percent of the vote in the 2000 election. Race ran as a write-in candidate in 1998, announcing his candidacy two weeks before the general election.

Since January, Kerttula has raised about $15,000 and Race about $3,000.

Race, a realtor and past Douglas Lions Club president who has not held elected office, said as a member of the majority he would be in a better position to enact legislation to benefit Juneau.

"The minority position that the candidate currently is in is unfortunate," he said. "She's a wonderful person and all that, but she's been totally ineffective for six years, and it's time that we change that."

Kerttula, who has held the seat for two two-year terms, has served as an assistant attorney general, legislative counsel to the state Senate Judiciary Committee and an assistant public defender.

Since taking the seat in 1998, Kerttula said she's played a pivotal role in a variety of state and local issues that have benefited Alaskans. She pointed to the landmark cruise ship pollution legislation passed in 2001, her participation in the bipartisan Fiscal Policy Caucus that has worked to forge a long-range fiscal plan and her work with the Juneau delegation to include funding for a new Mendenhall Valley high school in a bonds package to be put before voters in the Nov. 5 general election.

Kerttula said she would continue negotiations within the fiscal policy caucus to devise a plan to address the state's $1 billion fiscal gap that is projected to exhaust the state's Constitutional Budget Reserve by 2004.

"We have got to make changes in our economy or we will have some terrible problems in this state," Kerttula said.

She said she and other members of the Juneau delegation would continue to stand firm in opposition to a sales tax that would hurt towns that already have a local sales tax such as in Juneau, Wrangell and Bethel.

She also said she would work with the caucus on ideas such as implementing severance taxes on crude-producing oil fields, income taxes based on a percentage of the federal income tax, a motor fuel tax and using excess earnings of the permanent fund to pay for state services.

Race gave few specifics on how he would deal with the budget gap and suggested he would follow the path laid out by retiring Juneau Rep. Bill Hudson, a Republican who helped found the Fiscal Policy Caucus.

"You're going be dealing with a new legislative body, so I've had to research out some of my education on this," Race said.

He added that after consulting with his accountant he found an income tax would not benefit many Alaskans. Race did not give specifics on his position, saying that the issue needs to be left to the experts.

Kerttula said an income tax could make Alaskans feel like they have more of a stake in what's happening in the state.

"I think that at the beginning that was what the dividend was all about. It was making sure that people had a stake in the oil money and in what came into the state so they would be politically active and watch out for the state," Kerttula said. "I am not certain that that has been the result. Maybe it wouldn't be the result with an income tax either, but I think it would, in a way, make sure everyone recognizes that they were contributing and because they were contributing they would have an interest in how the state is run."

Both candidates said they support the completion of an environmental impact statement on a road connecting Juneau and Skagway, but differed on whether a road ultimately should be built.

"We have to have a road, no doubt about it," Race said. "I surveyed on one road concept in 1968. We should be driving on it by now. I have blood on that trail - literally. I have chainsaw marks on my leg from surveying that trail."

Race said the road project would enhance ferry service, adding that construction of the road originally was intended when the ferry system went in.

Kerttula said the draft environmental impact statement, which was left unfunded in 2000 when Gov. Tony Knowles blocked $1.5 million to finish the process, should have been completed. She added that the state did not give the marine highway alternative its proper consideration.

"I want to see the marine highway first, but I think we should complete the process so that we can understand what the options are."

Both candidates agreed Alaskans should be given the option to vote to amendment the state Constitution to implement a rural preference for subsistence hunting and fishing. But Race said he hopes it would be defeated.

"There are 600,000 people in this state. We are all rural," he said.

Race said he wasn't sure if the voters would agree. "But I think they have the right to make that decision," he said.

Kerttula said she believes in a rural preference, noting polls show Alaskans agree.

Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at timothyi@juneauempire.com

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