Candidates vie to bring Juneau voice to state Senate

Republican Mac Meiners faces popular incumbent Kim Elton in Nov. 7 election

Posted: Monday, October 30, 2006

Democrat Kim Elton has represented Juneau in Senate District B for eight years, and in other state and local positions before that. So why does Republican Mac Meiners think he can unseat him?

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Meiners said his goal is to bring a new, less partisan voice to the capitol.

"You can't get along with everybody, but you can sure try," he said.

Elton said that's how he's been doing his job, and Juneau's better because of it.

He said he'll meet with people from all over the state. Working with them, he said, builds long-term benefits.

"I've never said 'no' to a school board from any part of Alaska because helping them helps Juneau," he said.

Elton doesn't shy away from playing a prominent role in Democratic Party politics, something he said has been well received by Juneau voters. Meiners said it it hasn't been well received by Senate Republicans, and he was recruited to make his first bid for Legislative office by Republican Senate leaders Con Bunde and Tom Wagoner.

"They felt they could work with me."

Elton has represented Juneau in the Senate for two four-year terms, following two two-year terms in the House of Representatives and previous service on the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly. He's a writer and retired state employee, while Meiners is a fisherman and former North Slope oil field worker.

"I'm not in favor of a new road to a new ferry terminal."

- Kim Elton,

Senate District B incumbent

"(The road) will give the rest of Alaska access to the capital."

- Mac Meiners

Candidate for state Senate

Meiners acknowledged the uphill nature of his battle, reflected in a significant financial advantage in campaign funds for Elton, name recognition and Juneau's Democratic voting history.

Both candidates have so far been running dignified, issues-oriented campaigns, helped by the fact that they disagree on some key issues, such as the road north and ethics reform.

THE ROAD

Among the sharpest divisions are over a new road out of Juneau. Meiners is for it and Elton is against.

"I'm not in favor of a new road to a new ferry terminal," said Elton.

Meiners thinks the road is crucial to Juneau's development, and doesn't mean a lack of support for these Alaska Marine Highway System.

"It's not roads versus ferries. It frees up ferries for those that need them," he said.

To Elton, the road is a boondoggle.

"We're doing something that Haines doesn't like, Skagway doesn't like, half of Juneau doesn't like, ends at a ferry terminal that hasn't been built and will need a couple of new ferries," he said.

"It doesn't make sense as we prioritize our transportation projects," Elton said.

But Meiners wants to do more than build the road 27 miles to a new ferry terminal. He wants to keep going to Haines and Skagway, and he wants it to be a nice scenic highway making use of Lynn Canal's impressive terrain.

"It'll be the most beautiful thing, the views will be just magnificent," he said.

Such a road will be expensive, but will boost the Juneau economy and help keep the capital in Juneau.

"It will give the rest of Alaska access to the capital," he said.

It will be controversial, Meiners acknowledged.

"It's going to make the greenies scream," he said.

ETHICS

Alaska's political establishment was shocked in August when FBI agents served a series of search warrants at the state Capitol and in the offices of oil field services company and political power broker Veco Corp.

Elton has fought for tougher ethics rules in the Legislature in recent years, and said he was "embarrassed" by the raids.

Meiners said he was waiting to see what happened.

"All I can say is I'm sure they're going to sort it out and find out what was going on," he said.

In some cases Elton said he's been playing defense against Republican attempts to roll back existing ethics laws, but hopes the FBI raids will lead to strengthening them.

One thing, he said, was to require that legislators who receive outside consulting fees disclose what they do to earn those fees.

"If nobody else does it I'm going to do it, but I'll look first for a majority member to do it," he said.

Meiners said he supported strong rules on ethics as well.

"People should be held to high ethical standards," he said. He said he was among many people surprised to learn that Legislators who accept consulting fees don't have to reveal what it is they do for the money.

"I was kind of shocked, too," he said.

Still, he said that at this point he wasn't planning to introducing any legislation, if elected.

"I've got to get familiar," with existing laws and what should be done, he said.

THE MAJORITY

In much of Elton's career in the Legislature, he's been in the Democratic minority. For Meiners, that's a crucial part of his campaign.

"Juneau needs somebody in the majority," he said.

Meiners said Ketchikan, represented by Republican Bert Stedman did better than Juneau in winning state support for local projects.

"Ketchikan, they got money for their docks, for their roads," he said.

On issues important to Juneau, such as protecting the capital, it hasn't mattered whether its representatives were in the majority or not, Elton said. Over the years Juneau has had both. "There wasn't an iota's difference in the delegation in protecting the capital," he said.

THE GASLINE

With every candidate in the state seemingly in support of the natural gas pipeline to make use of the state's tremendous gas resources, candidates are campaigning based on how much they support it and who has the best ability to bring it to fruition.

Meiners said he's like to see a spur line from the main pipeline extend to Haines or Skagway, and maybe south of there.

"It'll breathe life into Southeast," he said.

The gas pipeline is "the way Alaska secures our future for the next 25-30 years. It has the ability to do for Alaska what the oil pipeline did earlier," Elton said.

After spending most of the Legislative year working on the gas pipeline, and several previous years on related oil and gas issues, Elton said he was best equipped to get a gasline deal done.

"I probably have as much institutional knowledge as anybody in the state Legislature," he said.

"I'm optimist we can finish the job with a new governor. I'm confident Tony Knowles can do it, but the other candidates recognized the problems in Murkowskii proposal as well," he said.



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