I haven't been able to find any still pictures taken at yesterday's Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce debate that I wouldn't have to pay for. The Fairbanks News-Miner story is minimalist at best. The Anchorage Daily News didn't send anyone up there, relying on an excerpt of the News-Miner story and a hyperlink to it for their coverage. KTVF-TV in Fairbanks has some video on the debate, and an interview with Jim Whitaker on his Obama endorsement.
Deirdre Helfferich, at the Ester Republic blog, asks why Ray Metcalf wasn't there. According to the Fairbanks Chamber, he didn't respond in time to their RSVP. Metcalfe was there, but wasn't allowed to take the podium. Seems like the Chamber might have indulged in a bit more generosity.
Here's Janiak's coverage:
I am blogging the Candidates debate on Tuesday August 12, at the regular Tuesday meeting of the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce. The meeting was moved to the Carlson Center, a sort of glorified hockey rink. The candidates are seated on a high dais. The format is that the moderator will do a random drawing for the first candidate to answer each question.
I am going to rearrange so that all of the senate and all of the house candidates are together. There are a passel of, shall we say, lesser candidates for the U.S. Senate seat.
Fairbanks blogger, janiak asked Progressive Alaska to post her notes from the debate:
Notably absent is Ray Metcalfe, who apparently failed to RSVP in time to get in on the debate.
First they introduce themselves:
Rick Simka is all about character, and empowering families. high standards of integrity, (he is the one that just came out for mandatory prayer in schools.)
Ted Stevens says, we found a new role for Eielson-he goes on to tout his accomplishments, "Who talks the talk, who walks the walk, who has the accomplishments? Then he says that high energy costs is now the problem, (just like he wasn't apart of creating that problem.)
Vic Vickers- "I am running to stop corruption, Alaska will not move forward till this scandal ends." Then he drops the bombshell, and formally asks Ted to resign, right now. Someone shouts from the crowd-"the word is alleged."
Mark Begich: Spiraling energy costs, health: he mentions it. Ending one era, opening a new era. Open ethical and independent leadership. Issues are too great to divide us. Everyone needs to be part of the solution, new optimism, hope. A future for children and grand children.
Bob Bird lives in Kenai, has been a teacher for 35 years. "Incumbent says that he brings jobs, but that's the problem, he is not following constitution. Federal handouts bring federal dependency and control. (He is a Ron Paul follower.). Government should not give handout, but freedom, beyond, that the government is enslaving us.
Michael Corey says he is in the race to get an education, he has learned that he is just as capable of doing the job as any of the other candidates. He is a civil trial attorney. He thinks we need a fresh face, and reminds people that natural resources are here for us. We need a comprehensive energy policy. We are a resource state, he says, a theme which will be repeated.
Dave Cuddy goes for the local vote, saying he raised his kids here in Fairbanks, was actually the first moderator of these chamber candidate forums. And Ted and Don were on the platform then, too. It's a great place to live. (Fairbanksans love to hear this.) He is asking us to focus on problems in Washington: budget deficits, illegal immigrants. He is talking about everything but Alaskan issues. Altogether a very irrelevant speech.
David Hasse- the libertarian. Alaskans are libertarians at heart, he says. He looks even older than Ted, with his grey hair and beard. "We are all pioneers," he says, so a third party candidate should be able to make it in a pioneer state. David for Alaska. Google it.
Jerry Heikes (He doesn't actually give his name., later on he tells us that he is actually a sheetrocker. ) Its about language, borders, and culture. Pro- life at conception..there is nothing like the devastation to women brought on by our culture of abortion. Marriage is between a man and a woman, pro death penalty. And he is speaking from his heart. (My daughter the feminist campaign worker is in the crowd, cringing, I know.)
For the Don Young House seat:
Diane Benson, - She graduated from Fairbanks' Lathrop High School, she was a teamster, one of the first women to drive on the haul road. "I made a choice to run against Don Young when no one else wanted to do I," she says. She feels a call to service..Trust, ethics and accountability.
Ethan Berkowitz opens putting the high card on the table: "$4.49 for a gallon of gas." The bottom line, he says, the hit to the economy from high oil prices are actually greater than the total cost of closing of Eielson would have been. This is an election about where are we going, not where we have been.
Gabrielle LeDoux. She is running because she is the best person for the job. Wants to make Alaska just a little bit better. She will fight for us.
Sean Parnell. He jumps on the cost of heating oil bandwagon. He says we need to increase supply of American oil, decrease demand.
Don Young thanks his wife. He is the best person for the job, he is a good friend of Ted Stevens. He believes in us, understands the system, where we are going. It's not about Don Young, it's about the best person to do the job. "Thanks, God bless you."
On the first Question Education and No Child Left Behind.
Sean Parnell, NCLB is generally good, sets standards, but bad because there is no flexibility
Don Young- I am surprised Sean did not give me credit for my new bill to increase flexibility in NCLB.
Mark Begich gets right up on step and says that NCLB does not work, never worked and should be scrapped, turning schools back over to local control, and back to parents.
Next up is Bob Bird, the one who has been a teacher for 35 years. He hates NCLB. (He also apparently has said at other times that he wants to eliminate the Department of Ed.)
Corey says we need to do more for the Best and Brightest, and give parents vouchers for Christian academies.
Ted Stevens defends NCLB, says that students grades are up. It does need modification. But he defends the concept. In this I think he is out of step with most Alaskans.
Vic Vickers uses this question to put in a plug for his favorite horse: Alaska's political leaders have failed Alaska. If Alaskans got a fair share of oil profits, we could support the kind of education we want. He will later say the same about health care.
Diane Benson disputes Stevens' assertion that NCLB is working. Plenty of kids are left behind she says. In fact, the dropout rate is up to 50%. We say that children should be our number one issue, but are they? We are failing the. We should revamp or even repeal NCLB and fully fund education. And if we want to really educate children, we need to take care of health and safety as well. Point to Diane.
Ethan Berkowitz. NCLB is flawed. He is opposed to standardized tests. Kids don't come standardized. He supports universal pre-school, and vocational-technical training.
Gabrielle LeDoux nails the real conundrum- who could be against something with that title? Who wants to leave any child behind? But she is against federal control of schools.
Second question: Earmarks-
There seemed to be a consensus among all the candidates other than that it is not earmarks per se, that are the problem: it is the process that needs to be cleaned up. There needs to be more transparency, no inserting special earmarks in at the conference committees stage, full disclosure of who requests the earmarks, and for what purpose.
Of course Stevens and Young
Stevens reminded the crowd that his very first earmark was for Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, and he plans to continue his earmarks, (scattered applause from the audience.)
And Young turns the issue absolutely against the crowd: "You asked me for the money. I was just giving you what you wanted."
And Bird continued his theme saying that earmarks are not in the constitution.
Then the Chamber fired off a few of its trademark Yes or No questions, like "Are you in favor of opening ANWR?" These questions really are meaningless, because according to the Chamber, there is a right answer, and a wrong answer. No one but yours truly would commit political suicide by giving the wrong answer to the chamber. Let's see, this, like the debate, is getting both predictable, and boring.
There was one question about health care, but surprisingly little real attention to the issue, which has faded in the face of the energy emergency in the state. Republicans still favor market based solutions, like the bill Young co-sponsored which would give small business the right to bargain as a group. ( I don't understand why they can't do that now.)
Democrats just want to get something done, even if it is not a universal payer system. And energy dominated. Everyone wants energy independence, but how?
Republicans still see Alaska as a resource colony. We have to make sure that any national energy plan includes Alaska as the oil and gas supplier, someone said. But there does seem to be a growing consensus towards what I call a populist stance of a bullet line for gas for in state use. And more use of renewable.
Except Stevens, who said that we have to develop ANWR first, then we can use the profits from ANWR to develop renewables. This tracks the Republican party line: Renewables are nice, but they are not ready. They have been saying that for 30 years while the oil companies have eaten our souls. It surprises me that no-one wants to blame those who have been in office for all this time.