The Alaska Legislature's ethics came under fire Tuesday during a candidate forum at Juneau's Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall.
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Juneau Democratic Sen. Kim Elton, who is fighting for re-election against Republican Mac Meiners, said he was stunned to be a member of a Legislature in which the activities of some members resulted in the FBI serving search warrants in Capitol offices, looking for evidence of crimes.
"I think you need the kind of people in politics that precludes the need for three dozen FBI agents to come and visit our offices," said Elton, who holds the Senate District B seat.
In September, FBI agents searched the offices of six state legislators, including Senate President Ben Stevens, R-Anchorage, and Bruce Weyhrauch, R-Juneau. Weyhrauch is not running for re-election.
Andrea Doll, a Juneau Democrat facing Juneau Republican Randy Wanamaker for Weyhrauch's open House District 4 seat, said she would bring an ethical agenda to the Legislature.
"The legislators serve the people. They're not above the people. They're not above the law," she said.
Republican candidates Wanamaker and Meiners argued that Juneau needed to send Republicans to the Legislature if the city was going to accomplish its goals, including winning funding for a North Douglas crossing and fighting a capital move.
Wanamaker argued that his track record in business and public service, including serving as a leader of Goldbelt, Juneau's urban Native corporation, and as deputy mayor gave him the needed background to be successful in the Legislature.
"Juneau has got to have somebody in the majority, with a real record of accomplishments," Wanamaker said.
Meiners assumed Republicans would retain control of the state Senate, and said that's why Juneau needs a Republican senator.
"We need to have a voice in the majority," he said. "The majority gets things done."
Tlingit-Haida Central Council, Sealaska Corp., Goldbelt, the ANB/ANS Grand Camp and ANB/ANS Camp No. 2 organized the forum.
The forum was put together in a little more than a week, said ANB Grand Camp Chairman Dewey Skan, but all the local legislative candidates managed to attend. Even lieutenant governor candidate Ethan Berkowitz called in from Wasilla, where he stepped away from the stage during a campaign forum there to participate. He received a warm reception.
Beth Kerttula, a Democrat who is unopposed for re-election to the House District 3 seat, said the Legislature needs a new standard of ethics.
"The FBI raids were shameful," she said.
That new standard can only come with a change in leadership of the House and Senate, she said.
"This (Republican) majority needs to change," she said.
Local ANB member Harvey Marvin wouldn't say who he was voting for, but that ethics would play a big role in his decision. Then he pulled a Juneau Empire clipping from his pocket where Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker lambastes Republican legislators for playing fast and lose with ethics rules in their dealings.
"Legislators who play fast and loose are with their rules are likely to do the same with your rights and resources," he said.
Marvin said he strongly agreed with the column's sentiment and came to the forum to see what the candidates had to say on the issue.
"I watch what they do after they get into office, too, " he said.
Empire reporter Pat Forgey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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