Empire editorial: Two solid candidates, but only one spot

Posted: Friday, October 29, 2004

The Mendenhall Valley has the rare and enviable dilemma of having no way of going wrong in this year's state House election. Both candidates are thoughtful and shrewd and show that they think beyond party lines. Both have experience that could be invaluable to Juneau as it pushes for a new capitol and fights for the life of the Alaska Marine Highway System. Both want to close the state's fiscal gap, though possibly from different sources.

What should sway voters in House District 4 is the impressive record of a freshman lawmaker who has demonstrated he will buck his party and his governor when they aren't in step with his city's interests. The Empire endorses Republican Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch.

Weyhrauch has been busy in his first term. He counts 14 bills and resolutions to his credit, and notes that those who voted against his legislation were Republicans. When Gov. Frank Murkowski squelched public input and moved the ferry system's administrators to Ketchikan - 40 more government jobs leaving an already defensive capital - Weyhrauch used his chairmanship of the House State Affairs Committee to probe the decision and berate Alaska Department of Transportation officials.

"I've never kowtowed to the governor, Frank Murkowski, and I never will," Weyhrauch said this month. "Murkowski is just not liked in Juneau for obvious reasons. You can't govern the same way in Alaska as you do in Washington, D.C."

To the extent that that's true, it's good politics for a candidate to preach to the choir. But Weyhrauch has shown that he doesn't reserve his tough talk for the campaign and that he doesn't accept party doctrine that's bad for the city.

While Weyhrauch places himself in the pro-road camp when asked about the administration's proposed Juneau-Skagway link, he says he has enough reservations to remain open to other possibilities and worries about current management of existing basic transportation - the ferries. He says Juneau's status as a ferry hub is important both to the city and to the outlying villages, whose residents travel to Juneau for services.

Democratic challenger Bob Doll is a former Alaska Marine Highway System director who lists ferry replacement and augmentation through fast ferry shuttles as a top priority. With logic that all Alaskans should consider, he supports the ferry system as a public transportation system that, while it can be run efficiently, has no mandate for self-sufficiency.

The former Navy officer is a straight talker who understands Alaska government and the region's needs. Should he come up short on Tuesday, Juneau voters would be wise to keep him in mind for another day.

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