The fight for downtown

Race seeks more of the 'pie'; Kerttula says broader goals needed

Posted: Sunday, October 29, 2000

Mike Race says he's "a regular guy" who wants to help Juneau get its fair share from the state.

Race, 51, a Republican and owner of a realty franchise, has based his campaign for the downtown House seat on being a member of the Legislature's majority party. That, he contends, would help stop the loss of state jobs, get funding for a new high school and otherwise ensure Juneau keeps its place at the table when lawmakers cut up the pie.

Meanwhile, freshman Rep. Beth Kerttula is "a radical Democrat" who will never be in a position to deliver for Juneau, Race said. "If in the wildest dreams Democrats would come into the majority, she'd probably be like the four Republicans that aren't in the majority now."

Kerttula, 44, a lawyer, former assistant attorney general and former Senate counsel, has a long history with state government, starting with her father, Jay Kerttula of Palmer, the only person ever to serve as both speaker of the House and president of the Senate.

She says Race fails to grasp the mechanics of the Alaska Legislature and American politics generally.

Because of the three-quarters vote needed to tap the Constitutional Budget Reserve, House Republicans have needed Democratic cooperation, Kerttula noted. "The majority had to have our votes to pass that budget. There were negotiations. There were things that came back in and went out (of the budget) because of that. ...

"America's founded on the whole idea of having at least two parties and having a healthy debate. You can't just have a steamroller."

Race contends it's just a fact of life that being in the majority makes a difference in state funding for a district.

"Unfortunately, life throws these reality curves at you," he said. "We can say that it's not a good way for government to run, but if we're not getting the money ... We can stand on righteousness, or we can go get the money."

Kerttula said that it sells her constituents short to suggest they care only about getting theirs.

"It's a ludicrous vision," she said. "It demeans the process."

She said she watched "in awe" during budget hearings last session as dozens of her constituents waited for hours to testify about proposed cuts and then supported continued funding for programs in the Bush, rather than in Juneau. "Downtown Juneau stands for more than buckets full of money."

Race said Kerttula is also weak and insincere in her efforts to keep Juneau as the capital.

Six of 14 commissioners are based outside of Juneau, showing that Kerttula hasn't been able to stop "capital creep" even in a Democratic administration, Race said. And he suggested her family has "large land holdings" near Wasilla that might make it in her interests for the capital to move.

"That's just absolute nonsense ... a mean-spirited argument," Kerttula responded. "I live here. My home is here. ... I know what the capital means to this town."

Race also blames the possibility of a capital move on "Trojan horse greenies" who have infiltrated state government and worked to shut down the mining and logging industries in Southeast. This "environmental terrorism" has led some Juneau residents to conclude the capital might as well move, just to rid the city of anti-development forces, he said.

Race hasn't given up on a road out of Juneau and said he'd like to see another city advisory question with "less divisive" wording. The road was implicitly promised to the rest of Alaska when the capital move was defeated in 1994, he said.

Kerttula supports better ferry access instead and suggested that "sucking up" more than $300 million for the road from Alaska's share of federal highway funds would focus unfavorable attention on Juneau's status as the capital. She said more effort and investments in telecommunications are needed to keep the rest of Alaska connected with the Legislature.

Kerttula's voting record hasn't been much of an issue in the race.

One piece of Race's campaign literature mentions two votes: Kerttula opposed a resolution urging Congress to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge up for oil exploration and she opposed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Opposing the latter bill, offered by a Democrat, shows she is "a free radical" who can't work with her own party, Race said.

Kerttula said the ANWR resolution was flawed because it didn't support a better split in royalty-sharing with the federal government and didn't call for the indigenous people of the area to be included in the decision-making. The title of the religious freedom bill was "a misnomer," she said. "I completely support religious freedom."

Kerttula and Race also have differences on proposed constitutional amendments.

She supported last year's move in the Legislature to put a constitutional amendment for a rural subsistence priority on the statewide ballot. It passed the House, but fell short of the necessary two-thirds vote in the Senate, triggering federal oversight of subsistence.

Race wouldn't categorically rule out voting for the amendment but said he wouldn't be inclined to. The Alaska Constitution predates the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, the federal law mandating a rural preference, and the state shouldn't give in to the feds, he said.

"That's shocking," Kerttula said. "It's going to be very difficult to pull back into state management."

On this year's ballot, Race supports Ballot Measure No. 1, a constitutional amendment banning citizen initiatives on wildlife, and No. 2, a constitutional amendment allowing constitutional amendments to change multiple parts of the Constitution and preventing courts from adjusting the language of proposed amendments. Kerttula opposes both.

Race said he will vote against Ballot Measure No. 6, a referendum to repeal laws enacted by the Legislature that eased the ban on same-day land-and-shoot hunting of wolves from a 1996 initiative. Kerttula wants the laws repealed and will vote yes.

Race opposes the involvement of Outside animal rights groups in the Alaska initiative process. But Kerttula said supporting "way overboard" management methods like same-day aerial hunting "plays into the hands of the Outside groups to make it look like Alaskans don't care about wildlife."

Both candidates oppose the property-tax cap and the legalization of marijuana, although Kerttula said she would have supported an initiative tightly focused on medical marijuana. And both support a constitutional amendment requiring legislative confirmation of gubernatorial appointees to boards of public corporations. except for trustees of the Alaska Permanent Fund.

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