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House District 4 race: Muñoz emphasizes her Juneau history, public involvement

Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2008

With Cathy Muñoz agreeing with her Republican primary opponent for House District 4 on many issues, she's touting her longer history of public involvement in local issues as her strongest asset.

"A lifelong experience of living in Alaska, and Southeast Alaska, gives me a good background to be an effective representative for not only Juneau but all of Southeast," said Muñoz.

She's facing fellow Republican Stephanie Madsen in next Tuesday's Republican primary seeking to take on incumbent Democrat Andrea Doll in the fall general election.

Muñoz served three terms on the Juneau Assembly, starting in the 1990s, first with an appointment and then being elected twice.

With her opponent having lived in Juneau only 10 years, Muñoz is hoping to capitalize on her longer tenure in Juneau.

"During seven years on the assembly I gained knowledge of the budget process, and the priorities of the community," she said.

Muñoz is a member of two well-known Juneau families. Her father, Elton Engstrom,is a former legislator, while her mother-in-law is noted artist Rie Muñoz.

Muñoz said a regional approach to legislating would be a priority for her. As an Assembly member she served as a representative to the Southeast Conference, a regional development group.

Among those goals is protecting the state ferry system.

"The ferries are the lifeblood to the region," she said.

While that's an agenda shared by her opponents and among Southeast legislators generally, Muñoz said she'd be able to do the best job of winning widespread support for the Alaska Marine Highway System.

"It's all about working closely with other legislators to develop a coalition of support for the state ferry system," she said.

Muñoz said she differs from the House Republican leadership on some issues, such as moving the capital, abortion and same-sex employment benefits for public employees.

Bills in the House of Representatives that had the backing of the Republican leadership made progress moving through the House committee process over the objections of Democratic Rep. Doll, but did not make it to the House floor.

Muñoz said she'd be able to do a better job of defending Juneau from inside the Republican caucus.

"I'll be part of the majority caucus," she said.

Doll was the only Juneau legislator on a committee that considered the capital move bills, but was only occasionally successful in battling the bills.

Muñoz said she'd likely be more successful.

"My style is a lot different," she said.

Her "non-confrontational, collaborative style" would be more effective, she said.

Muñoz said she supported limited abortion rights for Alaskans.

"I'm opposed to abortion for myself," she said, and only felt that abortion should be allowed in the early stages of pregnancy.

Muñoz said she supports providing same-sex partners of public employees with employment benefits. That's something that has been controversial in the Legislature, but not in Juneau, where the Assembly, with Muñoz's backing, adopted its own benefits plan before the state did.

Muñoz also said she'd like to be a voice for a better ethical standard within the Legislature.

"It's very important that legislators hold themselves to a higher ethical standard," she said.

Muñoz said she is opposed to a House rule that requires legislators to vote, even when they have a conflict of interest on an issue, meaning they could personally gain from the votes they cast.

Muñoz's last attempt at elective office was in 2002, when she ran for the state Senate but lost to Sen. Kim Elton, a Democrat. Muñoz carried most of the precincts that make up House District 4, but lost heavily downtown and lost the race.

During that race Muñoz lived downtown, where she represented a downtown district on the Assembly. She has since moved to the Mendenhall Valley district.

House District 4 includes the valley and the Auke Bay and Fritz Cove areas, as well as the area north along Lynn Canal.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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