House candidates Stan Filler and Peggy Wilson say they don't know much about each other and don't know of many areas in which they disagree on state issues.
Democrat Filler, 62, a bar owner who just retired as mayor of Sitka, and Wilson, 55, a Wrangell nurse and former Republican legislator in North Carolina, are vying for the District 2 seat being vacated by Ben Grussendorf, a Sitka Democrat and former House speaker. The district includes Sitka, Petersburg, Wrangell and several small communities.
The contenders have met just twice, both times briefly.
"There's not a whole lot of contrasts," Wilson said. "It sounds pretty much the same on both sides of the fence."
But she said her three terms in the North Carolina House give her experience Filler doesn't have. And she'd likely be part of the majority party at the Capitol, she said.
Asked what the choice for voters is, Filler said: "From a practical standpoint, I've lived in the state for 40 years. ... The lady's only lived here for a couple of years. I don't know much about her. I've got a little bit of a handle on some things."
As for being a presumptive member of the minority, he said: "Somebody needs to be able to go the (Democratic) governor's office, and say, 'Governor, put this in the budget, and I'll try to keep it there.' "
Wilson said she won election in a North Carolina district with an 80 percent Democratic voter index. "I just got out and beat the bushes and talked to everybody just what I'm doing now."
She doesn't classify herself as a Jesse Helms Republican or a Robin Taylor Republican, for that matter. Wilson said she hasn't sought out the incumbent senator in her district to boost her first campaign in Alaska. "I'm my own person. I'm pretty independent." Once a divorced mother on welfare, Wilson said she supports moderate government programs.
For his part, Filler says Alaska used to have a non-partisan tone in its public discourse, and he's hoping to regain that. "My idea is not to kick the door in but knock on it and say, 'Let's have a cup of coffee.' " In lobbying on behalf of Sitka, the Alaska Municipal League, and the Southeast mayors conference, he has had a lot of interaction with the major players on the hill, he said.
Education funding is a key issue for the candidates.
"The flat funding is devastating, and the schools are as tight as they can get," said Wilson, who is married to Wrangell School Superintendent Woody Wilson. "It's awful."
Taylor and the Republican majority must shoulder some blame for that, she acknowledged. But she said she won't have to fight within the caucus to boost education spending because it's already clear that Alaskans will demand it.
Filler said better funding for education "could be the common denominator that could bring the whole state back together." He wants to see a better breakdown of actual costs to districts, such as for fuel, and he believes there is the political will to find whatever revenue is necessary. He said educators he has talked with estimate $20 million increases are needed in each of the next five years "just to catch up."
"We'll find the money," he said. "Whatever works."
Filler and Wilson have some differences on ballot issues. She supports all three constitutional amendments on the ballot.
Filler said he's still not sure about the amendment to ban citizen initiatives on wildlife management, but opposes amendments that would prevent the Supreme Court from changing the wording of proposed constitutional amendments and that would prevent the governor from removing trustees of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. except for cause.
Both candidates oppose the property-tax cap and legalization of marijuana. Wilson opposes restoring the complete ban on same-day land-and-shoot hunting of wolves, citing interference from Outside interests, while Filler hasn't decided.
Filler lost almost a full week of campaigning through Thursday, due to illness. But campaign reports show he's outspending Wilson more than 2-1, and has $9,867 cash on hand to her $4,929.
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