Empire editorial: Kendziorek, Dybdahl toss up, Wanamaker clear District 2 winner

Posted: Friday, September 28, 2007

Only two races for the Juneau Assembly will provide any head scratching at the polls come Oct. 2.

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Voters have three candidates vying for the areawide seat and two running for District 2. The third race isn't a race at all, with incumbent Jeff Bush running unopposed for District 1.

Though three candidates are running for the areawide seat, only two are solid choices, incumbent Johan Dybdahl and challenger Marshal Kendziorek. The differences between these two candidates couldn't be more striking.

The race for the areawide seat has, in the last week, boiled down to a single issue for too many: the candidates' position on the proposed Juneau Access road into and out of town. That's a shame because there are so many other issues in the capital that are part and parcel of the political landscape and that Assembly members will have to deal with much more frequently than the road.

Dybdahl prefers to work slowly and methodically, having formulated his views on issues such as Juneau's affordable housing problems over a 14-year span. He's a pro-development incumbent, keenly loyal to the business and development communities that are his key backers.

Kendziorek thinks much less conventionally, is rigorously analytical and is known for speaking his mind, even if to his detriment. He is also perceived by many as being far out of step with Juneau's business community.

Dybdahl is a staunch supporter of the road, and Kendziorek is adamant, perhaps to a fault, that the road simply cannot and will not be built because he says the money at the local, state and federal levels just isn't there.

Dybdahl and Kendziorek have their strong suits, but they also have their warts. If Dybdahl remains on the Assembly he needs to be a more forceful leader and he needs to take the job more seriously (he missed three key candidate forums during this campaign).

More distance between him and special interest groups also would make him a more credible public servant. In his absence at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce candidate forum Thursday, for example, Dybdahl had a representative of a cruise ship company make opening remarks for him.

Kendziorek needs work on his public image. He's seen as arrogant, combative and, doggonit, right about what he has to say. If he earns a seat on the Assembly he's going to have to be able to take the heat that comes with the job, to listen to others and to ease up on having all the answers all the time.

Neither of these candidates is ideal. Voters must decide who - and what - they can (or can't) live with and make their choice on Tuesday. Our best advice is to not let the road be the deciding factor in this race.

In the Assembly's other contested race, for the District 2 seat, incumbent Randy Wanamaker squares off against Dixie Hood, and the choice for voters is easier.

Wanamaker proved himself with two terms on the Assembly and is seeking a third and final term. We think he should be returned.

Wanamaker envisions making Juneau into a medical hub for Southeast Alaska, and he's got the connections to bring Bartlett Regional Hospital and SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium closer together.

Wanamaker also wants to make housing affordable to younger families as well as not forgetting Juneau's aging population, which will need affordable assisted living.

While Hood's campaign slogan -focus on the public interest, not special interests - is commendable, she doesn't have practical experience in government, which Wanamaker has in spades.

Hood also has demonstrated questionable judgment in the past, such as when she single-handedly organized a write-in campaign for Sybil Davis in the 2004 Assembly race even though Davis had already withdrawn from the race.

Wanamaker is the clear choice for this seat.



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