State House and Senate candidates square-off in third debate at UAF
Daniel Leahy/Sun Star Reporter
October 9, 2012
Four candidates for state House and Senate participated in a third forum hosted by ASUAF. Senate candidates Sens. Joe Paskvan and Pete Kelly debated alongside House candidates Scott Kawasaki and David Pruhs.
The forum was hosted in the Schaible Auditorium on Oct. 1 from 6 to 8 p.m. After facing several rounds of questioning, candidates spoke with potential constituents face-to-face over free pizza.
The forum precedes the general election next month. District lines were redrawn following the 2010 Census. This forces nearly every state legislator to face re-election or retire this year.
Former state Senator Kelly, is vying to oust incumbent Democrat Paskvan in the race for the new Senate District B. Similarly, Republican businessman Pruhs is challenging incumbent Democrat Kawasaki to represent the redrawn House District 4. Both districts comprise a large portion of downtown Fairbanks and the UAF vicinity.
Seven questions were posed by a moderator, followed by four asked directly by the audience. Each candidate was given 0ne minute to address an issue before a red flag was raised to indicate that time was up. Candidates also had time to deliver opening and closing statements.
Introductory statements were mainly biographical. Candidates used them to highlight aspects of their lives which qualify them to represent Fairbanks. Kelly, Paskvan and Pruhs all noted their status as Fairbanksans and Monroe High School graduates. In contrast, Kawasaki was born in Tokyo, Japan and attended Lathrop High School.
Candidates made a point to note their affiliations with the university. Paskvan earned his B.A. in Political Science at UAF before attending law school elsewhere. Kawasaki, another UAF alumnus, recalled being an ASUAF Senator. Kelly briefly studied at UAF, then completed his degree at Liberty University in Virginia. Pruhs is a member of the UAF Adjunct Faculty, a title he joked about to his opponents.
“Respect your instructor,” Pruhs said.
Several of the questions concerned the university and its students. Topics covered include state taxes on oil and natural gas, UAF tuition increases and a proposal to expand the state legislature. Responses showed broad agreement in some areas and strong division in others.
One of the most contentious disagreements was over heating and energy costs. Pruhs, owner of Pruhs Real Estate, talked about his multi-step plan to lower energy costs by constructing an in-state natural gas line. Pruhs criticized Democrats Paskvan and Kawasaki for allegedly opposing a line. Kawasaki fired back, claiming to have voted for the line.
“You’re going to here a lot of half-truths and a lot of BS in this debate obviously today,” Kawasaki said.
Paskvan, who claims to favor the line, accused Pruhs of “telling tales.” Kelly reserved his opinions on the line, instead opting to endorse several small projects that would bring immediate relief.
Candidates also disagreed over House Bill 272, which would award Alaskan students who stay in the state with lower interest rates on student loans. Kawasaki, who sponsored the bill, argued the program was necessary to “make sure Alaskans stay in Alaska.” Paskvan proposed that interest rates be cut in half for students that stay five years.
Kelly explained his support for HB 272 by citing Click Bishop, former Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development. Pruhs dissented, pointing to the bill’s broad scope as a major flaw. He favors a similar program for teachers and nurses exclusively. Loan forgiveness should be conducted “systematically and carefully,” Pruhs said.
Marijuana legalization was brought up during audience questions. Candidates were asked for their opinions on legalization proposals such as ones in Colorado, Washington and Oregon that will be voted on next month. Only Kelly was opposed, adding that he doesn’t consider it a major issue. However, no candidate fully endorsed legalizing the drug. Paskvan’s response was the closest. He claimed banning personal use harms our “right to privacy.”
“If you’re not hurting anybody, leave the guy alone,” Paskvan said.
General elections will take place on Tuesday, November 6. On that day, Alaskans may also cast their votes for U.S. President, U.S. Representative and several judicial offices.