Ketchikan candidates differ on approach to politics, POMV

Elkins, Allen-Herron share support for ferry system, Longevity Bonus for seniors

Posted: Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The Alaska House District 1 race is a study in contrasts.

Jim Elkins, 67, is a longtime Republican lobbyist for Southeast Alaska communities and ran a successful, historic bar and liquor store in Ketchikan.

His opponent, Dawn Allen-Herron, is a 45-year-old Ketchikan Episcopal pastor who also coaches swimming and helped steer Southeast public radio stations through a financial crisis in the mid-1990s.

The candidates have a few things in common. They support the Longevity Bonus program, a fund for seniors that was axed by Gov. Frank Murkowski. They also pledge support for the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system.

But Elkins said voters should avoid Allen-Herron for one reason: She's a Democrat.

He said state Democrats didn't help the effort to keep the region's pulp mills open in the 1980s and 1990s and now at the national level, Democrats are blocking oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

"She isn't going to tell her party to shove it," he said.

"I'm very pro-resource development," Elkins said. "We're a resource-rich area."

Allen-Herron says the main problem with Elkins is his "insider" approach to politics. Unlike Elkins, she said, she's neither partisan-minded nor "part of a small group of powerful people who make decisions to benefit (themselves) and make those decisions out of the public eye. I'm radically devoted to public openness," she said.

She's focused on the waterfront - she wants to help bring cold storage for commercially caught fish in Ketchikan and attract new maritime industries to Ketchikan's shipyard.

But she is against a return to the "company town" mode in Southeast Alaska towns - especially with respect to cruise lines.

"I acknowledge that they play an important part of our community, but we should not be so afraid for our future that we sell out ... doing anything the cruise lines want," Allen-Heron said.

"We don't want ever again to be dependent on one industry," she added, referring to the economic downturn after pulp mills closed in the 1980s and 1990s.

Both candidates support increased timber availability in the Tongass National Forest. Elkins also spoke in favor of mine development.

Elkins said his approach for dealing with significant issues for the district would be through teamwork with other legislators.

"In reality, you are going to get done what works for the whole Legislature," he said.

A major difference between the candidates is their position on the percent-of-market-value model (POMV) for the state permanent fund. POMV would merge the fund's earnings reserve and principle and cap spending at 5 percent of the total value of the fund.

Elkins said POMV is essential to the future of all Alaskans. Though he'd leave it up to Alaska voters, he'd personally cast his citizen vote in favor of using a portion of the 5 percent to support state government.

"The Legislature should have the flexibility ... to use those funds for the betterment of the state," he said, naming potential uses such as education, health care and ferry service. "What they could do with that money is unlimited."

Allen-Herron countered that Alaska voters have shot down use of the fund for government "again and again" in as many ways as state officials could think of to word their proposals.

"They say no, clearly and decisively. When the voters change their mind, I'll change my mind," she said.

Both candidates decry the Murkowski administration's elimination of the Longevity Bonus payments to Alaska seniors.

In October, Murkowski selected Elkins to fill the District A Senate seat, but the governor withdrew his nomination. In explanation, a governor's spokesman cited Elkins for stating in a radio interview he was appointed because of campaign contributions to the governor.

But Elkins said the decision was payback for criticizing Murkowski's slashing of the Longevity Bonus program.

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