More eyes will be on the race for the Juneau Assembly areawide seat than on any other on Tuesday, when voters head to the polls for the city election.
While two well-known and outspoken candidates - ferry system veteran Bob Doll and staunch business advocate David Summers - have generated plenty of interest, political newcomer Mara Early has added to it, as people wonder how her supporters could change the election's outcome.
At 23, Early's record of volunteerism is impressive. But Doll's many years of leadership experience with the Alaska Marine Highway System and his political savvy make him the strongest candidate in this race.
His 30 years in the Navy, including two as commander of a destroyer squadron, and work with the Alaska Legislature, would serve him well as he worked to push ahead one of his major goals, getting funding for a second crossing across Gastineau Channel. Tackling the city's housing dilemma is also high on his list, and his five years in real estate in Washington state would give him some insight into that issue.
While Summers is a champion of important causes, such as opening city land to development and keeping the seat of state government, his evasiveness is troubling. For instance, he first raised eyebrows when he said the Glory Hole food kitchen and homeless shelter needed to be moved out of the downtown tourism district. But after coming under fire, he wouldn't discuss whether the shelter belonged downtown. On Friday, at a forum sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, he wouldn't directly answer a question about his position on the Glory Hole, and merely said he supports its mission and wouldn't condemn it.
Summers also bills himself as a consensus builder and moderate, though his actions indicate anything but. In 2003, he protested the Downtown Business Association's plan to hold a candidate forum at the Silverbow Inn, saying the business was "left-wing" and hosted events for "radical anti-businesss figures." Despite his protest e-mail being sent to a number of board members, Summers wouldn't own up to it when questioned about it this election season.
Juneau Assembly - District 1
Experience and hard work during his tenure on the Assembly make Merrill Sanford the best choice in the District 1 race. Sanford is running against Joan Cahill, who successfully worked to ban smoking in bars and restaurants.
Sanford has given more than just lip service to addressing one of the city's most pressing problems, its housing shortage. He has been a strong advocate of simplifying the city's land-use, development and parking codes, all needed to promote housing and commercial development. And he pushed for much-needed sewer extensions long before anyone else did.
Juneau Assembly - District 2
Both Jonathan Anderson and Andrew Green in the District 2 race are newcomers to politics and both say affordable housing and strengthening the local economy are critical. But Anderson is more likely to be able to represent the interests of Juneau residents, largely because he is not tied to a major special-interest group, as Green is.
Green, port manager for the Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska, says he wouldn't be representing the cruise ship industry while serving on the Assembly. But it's hard to believe that Green will be able to take stands opposed to the industry that gives him a paycheck. Developing the downtown waterfront and deciding where the next cruise-ship dock will go are among the big issues the Assembly will face. Green likely will have to recuse himself from votes on some of these matters, but even when there is no apparent legal conflict, it's hard to imagine his work in the industry won't sway his vote.
Juneau School Board
All three candidates for the two seats open on the School Board have strong credentials and years of experience with school issues. Mike Ford, Sean O'Brien and Margo Waring are right on target, too, with their focus on the student-teacher ratio, the district's dropout rate and the quality of education with the emergence of a second high school.
Ford has the most extensive background in schools, as he worked as an education lawyer for the Alaska Legislature for two decades. He's also served as chairman of the Harborview Elementary School Site Council, member of the district's budget advisory group and member of its task force on choice programs.
O'Brien has a decade of experience on site councils at three different schools in town. But Waring could offer a bit more since she has spent time not just on boards, but also in the classroom. She has worked as a reading buddy, a classroom volunteer and a substitute teacher.