Two political newcomers - one Democrat and one Republican - are vying for the seat being vacated by Rep. Bill Hudson in House District 4.
Attorney Bruce Weyhrauch is running under the Republican Party ticket and commercial fisherman Tim Grussendorf is running as a Democrat. Neither has held elected office.
House District 4 represents most of the Mendenhall Valley and neighborhoods to the north. Since neither candidate has a party opponent, Weyhrauch and Grussendorf will be the only names from the district on their parties' ballots.
Both candidates are raising money, Weyhrauch with about $15,200 and Grussendorf with about $9,300.
Weyhrauch, who has worked as a private attorney in Juneau, has represented fishing groups in the Legislature on issues concerning commercial fishing and hatcheries. He opened his own law firm in 1998, which deals mainly with cases involving fisheries and natural resources.
He also has served on the Juneau Economic Development Council and as president of the Alaska Bar Association's Board of Governors and the Juneau Bar Association.
Weyhrauch said he always has been interested in public policy but did not consider running for the seat until Hudson announced his retirement from the Legislature.
"I had not gone looking for the job," Weyhrauch said. "But Rep. Hudson called and asked me to run."
Weyhrauch said he is concerned Juneau remain the capital and wants to see the state get back on a good fiscal footing. He also said it is important to have someone from the Juneau delegation be in the Republican majority.
Grussendorf has worked 23 years as a commercial fisherman in Southeast and has served on the Juneau Harbor Board and the Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Board since last fall. He also has worked for the last seven years as legislative staffer for state Sen. Lyman Hoffman, four of the seven years as Hoffman's chief of staff and the last two as his chief financial aide.
"There's a lot of power in the minority," Grussendorf said, noting many deals are cut in the last week of the session based on the three-quarters vote that is needed from Democrats to tap the Constitutional Budget Reserve to balance the budget.
Grussendorf, the son of longtime Sitka lawmaker Ben Grussendorf, said the Legislature should pick up where Rep. Hudson left off in building a bipartisan Fiscal Policy Caucus to devise a long-term fiscal plan to address the state's looming $1 billion fiscal gap.
"At this point we're going to have to start from ground zero," Grussendorf said. "We're going to have to look at all the options."
Though no one wants to be taxed or look at using the permanent fund to pay for state services, Grussendorf said some of these options would have to be considered. He did not give specifics on which ones he'd support.
Weyhrauch echoed the sentiment that lawmakers need to continue the work of the Fiscal Policy Caucus and reconsider the full range of taxes passed by the House, but not the Senate, last session. He noted he was least interested in an income tax passed by the House last session.
He suggested implementing user fees for various fishing and hunting licenses, campsites and roads to help generate revenue.
"How are we supposed to be responsible citizens without understanding that there is a price to be paid for everything we want?" Weyhrauch said.
Both candidates support giving Alaskans the opportunity to vote on a constitutional amendment allowing for a rural preference for subsistence hunting and fishing, each expressing concern that the state regain control of its natural resources.
They also agreed the state should continue with plans to build a road connecting Juneau and Skagway.
Grussendorf said he did not hold a strong position on the issue until some boats and airplanes stopped running for several days following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.
"After 9-11 I realized that Juneau is very isolated," Grussendorf said. "We live in a new world now, and I can see some of the advantages of driving out of Juneau."
Grussendorf stressed that if a road eventually is built it is important to continue to push for funding of the ferry system, so other towns in Southeast continue to have regular service.
"Just because we end up getting our road doesn't mean that we abandon Southeast," Grussendorf said.
Weyhrauch said the environmental impact statement process for the road should be completed but added that if elected he also would advocate for funding of state ferries.
Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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