House District 4 race: Madsen promises tough approach to legislating

Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2008

With only minor policy disagreements with her opponent, House District 4 candidate Stephanie Madsen is hoping Mendenhall Valley Republicans like her style of leadership.

Madsen hopes voters pick her instead of Cathy Muñoz to take on incumbent Democrat Andrea Doll in the fall general election. Doll is unopposed in the Aug. 26 primary.

"The biggest difference is not issue-specific, it is in approaches," Madsen said.

Madsen said she sees herself as having a "statewide lens" through which to see Juneau issues. That comes from having lived in Cordova and Unalaska for years before moving to Juneau 10 years ago.

"I can put myself in the position of the people who live in rural Alaska," she said, helping to build coalitions on issues such as fighting to protect the capital.

Madsen is executive director of the At-Sea Processors Association, a group representing mostly Seattle-based catcher-processors who fish offshore in Alaska. She's also served in a number of fisheries and economic development positions,including as chairwoman of the powerful North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

Combining her experience at negotiating at a state and regional level with her personality, Madsen said she'd be a tenacious representative of Juneau.

"Really, I'm a bulldog," she said. Madsen said she's persistent, speaks her mind and comes at issues "with passion in my voice" that help her accomplish things.

Madsen differs with many Alaska Republicans in supporting abortion rights.

Abortion is "terrible" Madsen said, but "Ultimately I'm a woman and I believe government should stay out of our bedrooms."

She said it was unlikely she would support efforts to amend the state Constitution to allow the Legislature to ban same-sex benefits for public employees.

"The constitution to me is pretty sacrosanct," she said. "It would take a lot for me to change that position."

Madsen said she's skeptical that returning government employees to a defined-benefit retirement program, instead of the 401(k)-style system the Legislature switched new public employees to a few years ago, would be a benefit.

For those in the Public Employees Retirement System, that meant a new Tier IV retirement system that has been heavily criticized by public employee unions, as well as Juneau's legislative delegation.

"I think we had recruitment and retention issues before going to Tier IV," she said.

Changes to retirement and benefits might include a defined-benefit, but she's likely to consider a number of different strategies.

A system designed to be attractive to young people would best meet the state's and Juneau's needs, she said.

"I don't think going back to defined benefit will solve the problems," she said.

Madsen said she'd be a strong advocate for the Kensington Mine, though there is little the Legislature can do now that it is in the federal legal process.

She said she'd be a strong advocate for the Juneau Access Project as well, and would encourage Gov. Sarah Palin to move ahead even without final resolution of pending lawsuits.

"I don't think you can wait until a time when there are no other lawsuits," she said.

Other Southeast legislators have balked at funding the road, fearing that it would take money away from ferries and other regional projects.

"I think the delegation needs to work with other legislators to go to the governor and explain that it is imperative to ensure good access to the capital city," she said. That includes the road, airport improvements and a stable and secure ferry system.

Madsen has criticized the Juneau delegation for its efforts at securing marine park status for several islands near Juneau, at a time when the capital was under pressure and capital creep was continuing.

Madsen said she supports the Legislature's strengthening of ethical rules in recent years, and would follow those rules.

"I'm a strong proponent of disclosure and recusal," she said.

Legislative rules require members to vote even if they have conflicts of interest, however.

"I'd obviously have to follow the rules," she said. "I'd make it clear about my conflict, if there is a conflict."

Madsen's current job with the At-Sea Processors is unlikely to present conflicts, she said, since it deals mostly with federal issues outside state waters. She has not needed to register as a state lobbyist in the last two years she's been with the group, she said.

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