The campaign clock is winding down for newcomer Shauna Thornton, a Democrat from Kenai, and incumbent Rep. Kurt Olson, R-Soldotna, for the District 30 seat in the state House of Representatives.
Since announcing her candidacy in August, Thornton has been knocking on doors. Most residents she talked to were surprised to see her on their doorstep, she said.
“It’s those private conversations in someone’s living room where you find out what people really think,” Thornton said. She said her job has been challenging not being the incumbent running in the contested race.
Olson, who has represented the district for a decade, said he hopes to return to Juneau to tie up some loose ends.
“I have a few things that I haven’t quite finished,” Olson said. He said his biggest accomplishments in office have been his successful avocation for improving worker’s compensation.
Since his first year in office Olson has helped move Alaska from being the first in the nation for compensation, to fifth. He has a long list of committee positions under his belt including the Chair of the Labor and Commerce Committee, the Oil and Gas Committee and the Community and Regional Affairs Committee.
Olson also spent two years on the Soldotna City Council and the Central Emergency Service Area Board of Directors.
Thornton, has also spent her fair share of time in Juneau, where she has spent the past five years advocating for funding for education and student’s issues. She is currently the Student Union President.
The drive to represent a wider body came when Thornton realized the voices of her peers were not being heard, she said. So she started doing her homework.
Thornton and Olson agree the one of the biggest issues facing the winner of this election will be developing the infrastructure on the central peninsula to handle the pending Alaska LNG project.
Olson said the area is being properly prepared. Roads, office space and land are being aquired.
“Nothing in life is a for sure thing, but the ball is rolling,” Olson said.
People on the central peninsula are innovative and have the ability to fulfill the requirements of the positions but need the right foundation to make sure they are in a competitive position, Thornton said.
The first step is education, Thornton said. She wants to see the jobs created by the LNG project filled by Alaskans.
Kenai Peninsula College is doing a good job at making sure people are learning what they need to know to secure those jobs, Olson said.
Both contenders will also be feeling the pressure of potentially very deep cuts to the state’s revenue. Olson said he is prepared to remind legislators they need to tighten their belts.
“I am good at being able to say, ‘Hey, we can’t afford it,’” Olson said. “I might loose some of my friends.”
Thornton said she also has a fiscally conservative approach to spending. Education needs some assistance in that area, she said.
Last year there was a 14 percent cut to education at KPC across the board, Thornton said.
“Cuts don’t mean slashing everything with a black pen,” Thornton said. However, the legislators need to be spending responsibly.
Olson said he is confident he can secure support for local needs with legislators. He said sometimes it takes a few years, but he has never had a bill he has supported fail.
Thornton said it would be tough taking the seat without direct experience in the political process but would be able to make things happen for her constituents.
Reach Kelly Sullivan at email@example.com.