by Phillip Manning ~ May 13th, 2014
With the state legislative session over, eyes are beginning to turn to the election in November. The Upper Valley is currently represented in the State House of Representatives by Wes Keller. Roger Purcell, the former mayor of Houston hopes to change that, come November. Purcell sat down with K-T-N-A’s Phillip Manning this week to discuss the race for House Seat 10.
While the race for one of Alaska’s U.S. Senate seats has drawn a great deal of attention over the past few months, it is far from the only election to be decided this November. Upper Valley residents will be voting on multiple ballot initiatives, as well as races for governor, lieutenant governor, state senator, and state representative. Roger Purcell is the challenger in the state house race. He ran against Representative Wes Keller in 2012 in an unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination. This year, he says he is running undeclared and will bypass the primary and go straight to the November general ballot. Purcell is running on a platform that he says means driving for results for the Upper Valley.
“What I see is District 10 is growing so rapidly, and we really have not had good representation through the House in our area, especially on our roads, our schools, our fisheries. We’ve really been lacking in getting the proper funding to get these projects done.”
Roger Purcell says he is opposed to the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project and in favor of the development of Port Mackenzie, including the railroad spur, port development, and Knik Arm Crossing. He says that he believes further development in the Southwest Mat-Su is a big part of the borough’s future.
“It’s a statewide benefit for everybody. It’s Fairbanks reducing the cost of commercial goods being transported. That is a good thing for a lot of people. It creates a lot of good-paying jobs, not just now but in the future, because it opens up the port.”
With regard to megaprojects in general, Roger Purcell says that follow-through should be a priority. He says that the current environment in Juneau does not include enough legislators willing to fight to see a project to completion. He believes he could do a better job seeing projects through.
“My goal is, I think within three terms, we can have a good, solid foundations on our road systems, our infrastructure, and our school bases. If someone’s willing to go down there and work hard and then continue to hand off the torch to someone else to continue projects–I own two businesses; this is not a career for me, but I want to see my son be able to stay in the Valley and work.”
Education is also an ongoing issue in the state, with Governor Sean Parnell calling the recently adjourned legislative session the “education session.” Hammering out the details of a funding package for public schools in the state was a major factor in causing the session to run longer than the mandated ninety days. It wasn’t until after the bill passed that school districts knew how many teaching positions they might have to cut. Roger Purcell says he would push for a system that gives districts more advance notice of education funding.
“I’m a firm believer in doing a forward-funding project, where each of the school districts know at least two years in advance what their funding is going to be. We should get that to the point where school districts are not waiting until the last minute to find out where their funding is going to come from.”
Roger Purcell’s criticism of his opponent centers around a few points. He says that Representative Keller does not do enough to fight for funding for District 10, and that he does not spend enough time out in the communities he represents. Purcell says he believes he would do a better job on both counts.
As the election moves closer, you can expect to hear more coverage on many of the November ballot questions on KTNA.