A Democratic political newcomer from Sitka faces a two-term Republican from Wrangell in the House race for District 2.
Republican Peggy Wilson holds a significant advantage over her opponent Roxanne Houston in campaign contributions, outspending her by almost six to one. Wilson has raised $34,600, compared to roughly $6,000 by Houston.
Houston, 44, said she's running a grassroots campaign that doesn't need a lot of money to get her message out.
"My experience is living in Southeast Alaska for the last 44 years," she said.
Houston works as a tribal recruitment coordinator for the Native health consortium SEARHC. She said the state needs to balance the budget through taxes to help keep its promise to take care of its elders.
"I think there are going to have to be a variety of solutions," she said, listing oil, sales and income taxes as possibilities. She said the state's decision to eliminate the Longevity Bonus program for seniors was "a total disaster."
Wilson, 59, doesn't want to see the state have to institute an income tax. "But it's better than a sales tax," she said.
Wilson, along with Republicans and a Democrats in the House, approved a proposal this year that would have used part of the Alaska Permanent Fund to help pay for education and provide aid to municipalities that was lost from budget cuts in 2003.
Houston said the permanent fund should be off limits. Instead, she proposed raising taxes during the tourism season to get more from those outside the state.
A $330 million road connecting Ketchikan to Canada should become an immediate priority for the region, according to Wilson.
"It should be done before Juneau Access," she said, referring to the state's proposal to build a road connecting Juneau and Skagway.
When asked if the project is unnecessarily expensive and a waste of government money, Wilson replied: "I don't care. It doesn't matter."
Houston said she would have to ask constituents before making a decision. She questioned how much it would cost to maintain such a road, adding that some of the road plans in Southeast make sense and others don't, adding that the plans should not come at the detriment of the state ferry system.
"I guess what I'm saying is Southeast Alaska needs the marine highway," she said. "We don't need a quick fix."
Wilson also said she wants to protect the ferry system but added that she wants to put a halt to the construction of any new fast ferries until the state has proven that they work. Rising gas prices will make it increasingly difficult to run the ships, Wilson said.
Wilson said she would push for increased education funding to train workers to build the gas pipeline. "We need to educate welders and pipefitters," she said.
Houston said education also is one of her top priorities.
She said the federal No Child Left Behind Act, setting performance standards for schools across the nation, doesn't fit a lot of communities in Southeast and the rest of the state.
"We will need to strive for the best education, but with a little more planning," she said, adding that each school district has different needs. "What works for Anchorage is not going to work for Sitka. What works for Wrangell is not going to work for Pelican."
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