Primaries for state office are approaching on Aug. 21. We reached out with questions to candidates running in the races for House of Representatives District 33 – the former seat of Rep. Sam Kito III – and to Senate District Q and the seat held by Dennis Egan, who is also choosing not to run again.

Candidate responses are listed in alphabetical order by last name.

Senate District Q

Jesse Kiehl (D)

Q • How will you work to combat the opioid/opiate crisis within the state?

A • The opioid crisis is a statewide scourge. Grappling with it on the Juneau Assembly, I’ve pursued a two-pronged approach. We increased funding for our police department to hire more staff. At the same time, we prioritized treatment, including funding for Rainforest Recovery Center and working with Bartlett Regional Hospital to make sure all psychiatrists can administer suboxone. I’ll bring the same approach to the legislature: both treatment and law enforcement to keep families and communities safe and help Alaskans live healthy, productive lives.

Q • Is the state doing a fair job of allocating cruise ship tax funds to communities affected by the industry? How can the program be improved?

A • The state needs to do a better job distributing the cruise tax funds it has on hand after sharing with the first seven ports. It may be time for a competitive process like the Harbor Matching Grant program to prioritize, and make sure the money is allocated based on a balance of both community needs and industry preferences, not strictly one or the other as we’ve seen the past few years. I’ll work hard to protect the state’s $5 per-passenger sharing with local governments, which has done a lot to prevent playing one community against another and ensure that the cruise ship tax funds benefit all ports.

Q • Do you agree with the Record of Decision on the Juneau Access project, and the governor’s support for the no-action alternative? If yes, what is your plan to improve ferry service in Lynn Canal and throughout the system? If no, will you support a new EIS for a road project? Please explain your reasons.

A • I do agree – our piece of Southeast has higher priority transportation needs. Our new senator’s biggest job will be to make sure the $43 million sitting in a “Juneau Access” account – cash that came out of Southeast Alaska’s share of the capital budget over the years – gets invested in transportation in our region, not spread around the state. That includes projects like replacing the Skagway ferry terminal, fixing Haines’ Lutak dock, upgrading the regional carrier section of the Juneau airport and other infrastructure for economic development that draws northern Southeast Alaska together. I’m optimistic that the two new dayboats – the Hubbard and the Tazlina – will soon add more capacity and more frequent, reliable service in Lynn Canal. We need to follow them with replacing mainline boats – the Tustumena replacement is close at hand, and the vessels that serve all of Southeast need to follow soon.

Q • What other priorities do you have, should you be elected?

A • 1) Balancing Alaska’s budget: Getting our state off the roller coaster we’ve been on with an all-oil budget the past 40 years will stabilize the economy to help the private sector and let us invest in schools, public safety and infrastructure. 2) Regular meetings in all the communities in the district: A big part of a senator’s job is to meet constituents face-to-face. As your senator, I’ll be in Skagway, Haines, Klukwan and Gustavus to talk with you. 3) Stabilizing the Alaska Marine Highway System: The new management model Southeast Conference is working on has real potential to improve the ferries. Just like asphalt roads need elected officials to invest enough resources to patch the potholes, our marine highway needs advocates who will keep it running strong. I respectfully request the honor of your vote to represent you in the Alaska Senate.

House District 33

Steven D. Handy

Q • How will you work to combat the opioid/opiate crisis within the state?

A • The crisis is a major reason I am running for office. I see it as having two branches, supply and demand, and each requires thorough root cause analysis and each will require its own attack plan.

The supply comes from both legal and illegal sources. I will encourage closer scrutiny of legal manufacturers and suppliers. I will be sure Alaska’s Attorney General holds those profiting from sales in Alaska accountable for their part in any misuse or abuse. I will support law enforcement agencies in their work to choke off illegal supply chains and push for the harshest penalties for all parties who attempt to bring illegal prescription or illicit drugs into Alaska.

Demand: Addiction is a major problem to which there is no easy fix. However, some agencies are making headway in dealing with the various causes of addiction, and I will strongly support them in their work. Also, I believe education is a fundamental weapon in the war against any social ill including addiction. I will remain steadfast in my support of early education.

Q • Is the state doing a fair job of allocating cruise ship tax funds to communities affected by the industry? How can the program be improved?

A • If a substantial population of a cruise ship port of call community is feeling a burden due to the cruise ships’ presence and that burden is without fair and equitable compensation then an issue exists. If the community cannot negotiate with the cruise ship line to resolve the issue because of a legal obligation to the state then the state should step in to help the community. I admit I am unaware of any substantial shortcoming in the way the state allocates funds to Southeast communities from either the Commercial Passenger Vessel Excise tax (CPV) or the Commercial Passenger Vessel Environmental Compliance Fund. However, as a representative, I would consider any such issue to be my responsibility.

That said, if current ports of call schedules are different from those that existed when the CPV was changed in 2010 then I would seek to re-evaluate the statutes with the solicited input from every community in the district.

Q • Do you agree with the Record of Decision on the Juneau Access project, and the governor’s support for the no-action alternative?  If yes, what is your plan to improve ferry service in Lynn Canal and throughout the system?  If no, will you support a new EIS for a road project? Please explain your reasons.

A • Yes. Community consensus was insufficient to dedicate the amount necessary to extend the road a few miles to another ferry terminal. I will consult with the transportation experts who know what exists, what is needed, and how to close the gap between the two. They are the experts, politicians are not. The state must work to improve the flow and help to reduce the cost of moving people and goods in and out of Southeast Alaska.

Q • What other priorities do you have, should you be elected?

A • 1) Transparency of government is of major concern to me. I will openly solicit input from every precinct and strongly encourage active participation of constituents.
2) Alaskans must start now to rethink its dependency on petroleum and gas as source of income. I will push for investment in renewable energy and Alaskan entrepreneurs. We must make every effort to realize the benefits of alternative energy technologies. This focus will provide high-paying jobs, drive in-state education in those fields, and provide lower long-term costs and better environmental treatment.

Sara Hannan

Q • How will you work to combat the opioid/opiate crisis within the state?

A • I will fight for all health insurance to cover behavioral health treatment programs. We must increase the community based support services that deliver medically assisted treatment and other outpatient services. We must enhance prevention and early intervention programs to slow the growth of this epidemic.

Q • Is the state doing a fair job of allocating cruise ship tax funds to communities affected by the industry? How can the program be improved?

A • The state is following the current law regarding sharing the Commercial Passenger Vessel tax with local municipalities. The “unshared” portion of the state revenues could be allocated to the “Regional Cruise Ship Impact Fund” for use in communities that do not receive a municipal share.

Q • Do you agree with the Record of Decision on the Juneau Access project, and the governor’s support for the no-action alternative? If yes, what is your plan to improve ferry service in Lynn Canal and throughout the system? If no, will you support a new EIS for a road project? Please explain your reasons.

A • I do agree with the Record of Decision. I will fight to get the Alaska Marine Highway System an annual and a long-term maintenance budget. I will fight to restore a decision-making role to the highly skilled staff on the vessels.

Having the Department of Transportation and the Legislature make management decisions about the ferries has undercut the system’s service ability.

Q • What other priorities do you have, should you be elected?

A • 1) Affordable accessible health care. 2) Balanced state budget. 3) Renewable energy. 4) Public education.

Tom Morphet

Q • How will you work to combat the opioid/opiate crisis within the state?

A • 1) Work with federal representatives to preserve Medicaid as expanded under the Affordable Care Act, which provides critical help for treatment of addicts. 2) Use money from state lawsuit against pharmaceuticals to pay for treatment. 3) Support recreation, job training, housing and other programs that provide help, hope and alternatives to drug use. 4) Start drug awareness programs early in schools.

Q • Is the state doing a fair job of allocating cruise ship tax funds to communities affected by the industry? How can the program be improved?

A • The tax has provided Skagway more than $50 million since 2007 for necessary municipal infrastructure upgrades to accommodate ships and passenger traffic. Audits have determined that the municipality has, on the whole, spent the money responsibly and appropriately. The tax is a fair, proportionate way for passengers to pay a share of the infrastructure costs their visits incur. I would not support changes to the way it’s allocated.

Q • Do you agree with the Record of Decision on the Juneau Access project, and the governor’s support for the no-action alternative? If yes, what is your plan to improve ferry service in Lynn Canal and throughout the system? If no, will you support a new EIS for a road project? Please explain your reasons.

A • I support improving ferry service by returning management to professional engineers and schedulers, and removing the system from the whims of Alaska politicians.

Smaller, less comfortable, less safe boats pushed by governors Knowles and Murkowski appear to be a disaster. Reliable ferry service predated the state’s oil wealth. Return to the ferry system’s original formula: large, capable ships that can serve multiple routes. Restore state promotional funding that historically filled the ferries each summer. The state’s own analysis showed cost of a Lynn Canal Road exceeded benefits. The Alaska Marine Highway is one of the world’s great public transportation systems. Let it shine.

Q • What other priorities do you have, should you be elected?

A •  Protect permanent fund checks by enshrining dividend program in state constitution, guaranteeing Alaskans an annual check. Use a sustainable percentage of fund earnings to pay for essential services such as public safety and education.

Create financial stability in Alaska by developing new revenues, including a progressive payroll tax to capture income made in Alaska by non-residents and seasonal workers. Relying on the price of oil to operate a state is like relying on poker game winnings to feed your family. It’s neither responsible nor reliable. Increase Alaska’s gasoline tax (at 8 cents/gallon lowest in country). Pursue a statewide severance tax on minerals.   

Protect fisheries by supporting Proposition #1, endorsed by 50,000 Alaskans. Wild fish runs are like ATMs that never run out of cash, but only if we protect them. Political actions in the past 20 years have diminished habitat protection. Prop #1 puts into law science-based habitat standards and adds transparency to decisions affecting salmon streams, including public notice.

Make the legislature more democratic by adopting the state Open Meetings Act (the legislature exempted itself from this law) and by reforming elections with publicly financed state elections. The average winner of a seat in the Alaska House of Representatives spent $80,000 for their campaign in 2016. I’d also work to reverse a recent change that made citizen-led, statewide initiatives more difficult to get on the ballot.

I support full funding of education, including universal, public pre-K. The Headstart program proved that pre-K works.

Adding pre-kindergarten programs in our schools will make our children smarter, more capable people, and free up young parents, making them more productive.