District 30 candidates gear up for last month of campaigning

With less than a month to go until the general election, the four candidates for the Alaska House of Representatives seat for District 30 are upping their efforts to reach voters.

Four central Kenai Peninsula residents will face off Nov. 8 to replace current Rep. Kurt Olson (R-Soldotna) in the most contested Legislature race in the state. Republican candidate Gary Knopp, Democratic candidate Shauna Thornton, Alaska Constitution Party candidate J.R. Myers and unaffiliated candidate Daniel Lynch have all thrown their hats into the ring to go to the Juneau in January.

Financial support for the four varies widely. Knopp leads by a wide margin, having raised a total of more than $39,000 over the course of his campaign as of Monday and spending more than $31,000 on radio ads, signs, events and mailers. Thornton comes in second for fundraising, bringing in a total of more than $18,000 as of Monday and spending more than $12,000 of it, mostly on sign placement and campaign coordination from the Alaska Democratic Party. Myers has brought in about $538, spending about $295 of it on website design and business cards.

Lynch, on the other hand, has not reported a penny in campaign income. The Soldotna resident, who had to collect signatures over the course of the summer for a nominating petition to get his name on the general election ballot on Nov. 8, has spent more than $3,000 on signs and ads, but all of it came out of his own pocket.

This isn’t for lack of donation offers, he said, but from trying to make a point about the expense or paperwork load of running for public office.

“I realize I’m the extreme underdog in this race, but if I can even come close … and prove that it doesn’t take a lot of money, hopefully in a year or two, some of (the people who didn’t want to run because of the expense and difficulty of paperwork) will run,” he said.

Lynch, a retired union worker and a regular observer at Soldotna City Council and Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meetings, said the three main issues the state could address besides balancing the budget are the ballooning cost of health care, the ongoing opioid addiction epidemic and the future health of the Kenai River because of how dependent the central Kenai Peninsula’s economy is on the river.

For the budget, one of the most frequent ideas he said he has heard from voters has been to authorize gambling such as a statewide lottery or casinos. He said he was not sure what that would look like yet but that it had worked in other states and could be a possibility for Alaska, with a booming tourism industry in many places.

“It’s a voluntary (tax),” he said. “It’s nothing anybody is forced into, plus it creates jobs.”

Myers, the chairman of the Alaska Constitution Party, said he has been working with the other Alaska Constitution Party candidates on positions on state issues, boiling it down to seven goals: to restore and protect the Permanent Fund Dividend program, to block state income taxes and sales taxes, to promote a budget model known as the Goldsmith Budget, to restore privacy rights, to protect innocent life from conception to natural death and to implement comprehensive election reform.

Although the Soldotna resident has been talking to residents about issues and speaking on the radio, he doesn’t have any signs up on the roadways for philosophical reasons, he said.

“(Signage) is all about name recognition for one thing, but it’s very shallow and empty,” he said. “If people really want to find out what I stand for, they’re not going to find them out from looking at a sign. It’s a popularity contest on a basic level, but I guess I think ideas are more important than name recognition.”

He said in office, he would look for ways to reduce the budget to an appropriate size for Alaska’s population. He encouraged citizens to all stay involved and turn out to vote in November.

“The government is only as healthy as the citizen participation allows it to be,” he said.

Thornton, who ran unsuccessfully against Olson in 2014, said she has been busy knocking on doors and meeting with voters. She said those she has spoken to have been overwhelmingly concerned about this year’s PFD amount, which was halved by Gov. Bill Walker’s veto earlier this summer. Some people have said they understand it because of the budget crisis, but many people say they wish it had gone to a vote, she said.

Thus far, Thornton said her strategy has been to go to voters and make herself available as much as possible. In this election cycle, many of the races have been close, and she said she thinks people will be motivated to turn out in November, which could change the dynamics of the race.

“I think people are going to come out, because I think they’re realizing that on our local elections, it was very apparent that yes, one or two votes count,” she said.

Knopp said his campaign slowed down around the time of the municipal elections on Oct. 4, but he plans to ramp up in the next month with advertising and door-to-door visits. He said he has been meeting with potential staffers and making plans on winning in November.

“We’re pretty confident that we’re going to win,” he said. “We’re having the conversations now.”

When he ran for the seat in 2012, Knopp said he learned the importance of establishing a presence on the Internet when voters asked him whether he had a website and Facebook page. That was one of the first things he did this time around, he said.

Going forward, he said he would be actively campaigning until the election and planning for positions on potential legislation. Developing a fiscal policy and getting firm work done in Juneau in the next session will be important to re-establish public trust, he said.

“It’s going to be really important that we get to a fiscal policy moving forward, anything that puts a little confidence back in the public eye,” he said. “There was so much damage done this last year.”

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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