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Incumbents face their challengers for House and Senate Primaries

by Lorien Nettleton ~ August 22nd, 2012

Candidates for the Alaska legislature’s August 28th primary met in a Debate hosted by KSKA Radio and Alaska Public Television on Monday night.

After redistricting approved earlier this year, Northern Valley Residents now find themselves in a new district with new representatives. Senator Linda Menard and Representative Wes Keller have inherited the region, and both are facing challengers for the GOP primary.

Menard is being challenged by Mike Dunleavy for the Republican nomination in Senate district D. Whoever takes the primary will run unopposed in the general election. The two met in a debate hosted by KSKA and Alaska Public Television, and predictions for a Valley Clash have proven mostly true.

The debate between Menard and Dunleavy reflected some differences within the GOP. Dunleavy leveled charges that Menard’s membership in the Bi-Partisan majority was partly responsible for the failure to pass legislation to get more oil in the pipeline. Dunleavy went on to say the Work Group is not split evenly, and if elected he would be part of a shift away from the group sought by governor Parnell.
Menard countered by saying she had stuck to her values, and added that in order to bring capital projects to the region, she has had to play nice with others, rather than sitting in a corner.

Menard took exception to other statements Dunleavy made, including when he suggested looking at constitutional mandates and consider eliminating unmandated programs, such as $4 million dollars in support of the University of Alaska’s Shootout basketball game. Menard charged right back, saying Dunleavy accepted 70,thousand dollars for his work with a University-run mentorship program.

The candidates answered questions from moderators, and took a few more shots at each other during closing arguments, with Dunleavy saying the job of a senator is to be an individual and a leader, not part of the crowd. Menard said the Senate seat for District D was a personal calling and an important job, but not the place for a first step in a political career.

The contest for Representative of House District 7 was a more amicable affair. Incumbent Wes Keller is being challenged by former Houston Mayor Roger Purcell for the republican nomination. Whoever wins the primary will be unopposed in the general election.

Both candidates agree on getting more oil flowing through the pipeline as a way to keep the state budget afloat. Both candidates want to expand and encourage resource development in the valley, and both identify as pro-business reformers.

Keller questioned Purcell’s statements about learning from his past mistakes, and Purcell admitted he should not have made traffic stops or taken trips in a city of Houston police car.

Purcell has said he would look at ways to reduce how much the state spends on assistance programs, but in the debate he said he would start with administration and operations budgets. He added that resource development in the valley would be on place jobs could be added for assistance programs,

Keller, who sits on the Heath and Human Services Committee says one in 6 alaskans recieve medicaid, and he has seen a lot of areas where the state may not be doing an adequate job. Later, he said he was concerned about entitlement programs, adding that there were a lot of people looking for a free ride.

In Both Senate and House races, the candidates fielded questions from moderators, as well as questions posed by their opponents. Though both Senate Distric D and House District 7 were previously more central to wasilla and palmer, they will now be tasked with taking northern valley issues and concerns to heart.

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