An electoral novice is challenging one of the region's top lawmakers, a 10-year legislative veteran.
Democratic Rep. Beth Kerttula has represented Juneau in the Legislature since 1998, and is facing unusual opposition in her own party from David Newman.
Newman's top issue: term limits.
Both Kerttula, 52, and Newman, 33, live on Douglas Island, and both are attorneys. Newman was until recently an assistant state ombudsman, while Kerttula was an oil and gas attorney for the state Department of Law prior to becoming a legislator.
Agreeing with Kerttula on most state issues, Newman is arguing that Kerttula has simply been in office too long.
"The longer you are in, the less you get done," Newman said. "You start doing things just to get re-elected."
Kerttula said her experience enabled her to become the House Minority leader in the last session, the highest ranking Democratic elected official in the House of Representatives.
From that position, she said, she's been able to unite the party in issues such as the capital move, getting strong Democratic and some Republican legislator support for keeping the capital in Juneau.
"You need that history with them to work effectively for Juneau," Kerttula said.
Kerttula and Newman are contending for the Democratic nomination for House District 3, generally called the "downtown" Juneau seat.
The district includes downtown, Douglas Island, and extends north from downtown through the Lemon Creek, Salmon Creek and Switzer Creek areas, and includes the Juneau airport area as well.
Newman agrees with Kerttula on most issues before the state, including her leadership of the fight to increase state oil taxes and develop a natural gas pipeline.
On other issues, however, Newman said he'd do a better job of advocating for those issues.
Kerttula led House Democrats in preventing a repeal of same-sex employment benefits for government workers. Newman said he'd go further, and try to amend the Alaska Constitution to remove the ban on same-sex marriage.
"It's discrimination, and it doesn't have any place in our constitution," he said.
Newman also said he'd work to repeal Tier IV, the Public Employees Retirement System's new 401(k)-style retirement plan, and replace it with a traditional defined-benefit pension. That's a position Kerttula also has taken.
Newman wants to see every Alaskan have health insurance, and said he supports a bill introduced by Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage, which would require and subsidize insurance for Alaskans. Kerttula supports that as well.
Newman said the difference between what he'd do as a legislator and what Kerttula has done is that he'd immediately introduce legislation to accomplish those things upon taking office.
"You have to introduce legislation and fight for it," Newman said.
Kerttula said that's not how things are actually accomplished, especially as a member of the minority. Frequently, she said, the most effective way to legislate is to block bad bills or offer amendments to other people's bills.
Kerttula said she was instrumental a few years ago in getting a cruise ship pollution prevention bill passed, but it wasn't until the concept was incorporated in a bill introduced by then-Gov. Tony Knowles that it was passed.
"At first it hurt, I wanted my name on my bill," she said, but the overarching goal was to prevent pollution from being dumped in state waters, not to claim credit."
Newman said he'd be able to get bills passed that Kerttula hasn't been able to.
"You have to introduce legislation and fight for it," he said. "I'll be screaming from the rooftops about this stuff."
Agreeing with Kerttula on issues before the Legislature, Newman is staking out some positions on local issues in opposition to Kerttula.
He told the Juneau Chamber of Commerce this week that he strongly supports the Juneau Access Project, as a way of taking away an argument from capital move proponents. He acknowledged that Anchorage and Mat-Su capital-move advocates would find other reasons to seek the capital, even if Juneau was on the road system.
Kerttula said Juneau's advocacy of the road would drive a wedge between Juneau and other Southeast communities that fear construction of the road would take resources away from the ferry system. Newman said the ferries need secure funding as well.
Kerttula said she supports Ballot Measure 4, the water quality regulation measure, while Newman said he opposes it.
Kerttula said she backs the communities in Southwest Alaska who fear the impact of the Pebble Mine on their livelihoods, while Newman said he's a strong supporter of mining and fears the measure is an attack on mining generally.
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