Republican voters in Alaska get to choose their gubernatorial candidate from among a former senator, a prominent businessman and a former lieutenant governor who jumped into the race at the last minute.
Until the June 1 deadline, Mead Treadwell hadn’t decided if he was going to run for governor. He hadn’t intended to this year but was disappointed in the Republican primary options so far and feels good about the race, he said.
“I had a lot of prayer and a lot of consultation with my family,” he said. “All three of my kids have given up their summer for this campaign to help. That wasn’t exactly their plan either … I believe we will have the ammunition, the firepower. We began with strong name recognition.”
Treadwell, who served as lieutenant governor with former governor Sean Parnell from 2010–2014, has been working on resource development and economic issues since then. He worked with private equity firm Pt Capital until announcing his bid for governor, which has projects in Alaska and Iceland. Prior to working as lieutenant governor, he led the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s air quality division and worked in Prince William Sound on cleanup in the wake of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.
One of the major critiques he has of Gov. Bill Walker’s administration and of the Legislature is that they took four years to agree on a fix for the state’s budget crisis after oil prices took a precipitous plunge in 2014. However, there’s still work to be done to attract industry investment in Alaska, primarily oriented toward providing financial certainty, he said. He cited the example of the Parnell administration’s work on reforming oil taxes, which he said helped Alaska weather the recession, as a successful policy he worked on.
“If the state is not consistently looking for investors to come in to form investment to create jobs, we have a problem,” he said. “Whether you ‘ve got high oil prices or low oil prices, we know that the state budget is based on throughput in the pipeline … I think the Legislature was right to say let’s try to stem the cash outlay. But the fact is that we didn’t keep our promise. And a government that doesn’t keep its promises really hurts Alaska’s credibility.”
Alaska has a number of resource development opportunities coming down the pike, including the Congressional approval of oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the ongoing work on the Alaska LNG Project to monetize the natural gas on the North Slope. He said he was hopeful the supply agreement contracts could be negotiated to support a project with a target market in Asia, though the supply agreement terms are still secret, and has a long experience working in the LNG industry.
Though the state has plenty of proven oil resources on the North Slope and in the Interior, the infrastructure needed to support them will cost “tens of billions of dollars” of investment to access, he said. That will take the state attracting private companies, which want assurances from state government, he said.
“We have to be known as a state that keeps our promises,” he said. “People know we’ve got lots of resources. The credibility question is ‘Can you come here without getting your fingers burnt?’”
He said he’s been involved in environmental policymaking on a variety of mines and other projects and supports getting more regulatory authority in Alaska as opposed to at the federal level.
“Alaskans argue about the environment a lot,” he said. “We love the environment. If we don’t pay attention to being responsible and keeping our priorities to ourselves, others are going to take them away from us. We’ve got to keep decision-making at home.”
Public safety, particularly the opioid crisis and domestic violence, are key issues Treadwell says he’d work on as governor. Establishing better federal and state government cooperation could help curb drugs moving into the state, he said. Placing more police into the communities to help police and raising awareness for domestic violence, sexual assault and suicide would also be goals, he said. He said he also supports more funding for education.
“We’re going to work to make these happen and get more resources where we need to,” he said.
Treadwell said he sees Democratic primary gubernatorial candidate Mark Begich as his main opponent during this race. Begich, a former senator, was also a last-minute entry to the race, prompting Walker to withdraw from the Democratic primary and look for signatures as an independent candidate on the ballot.
However, Treadwell has a number of opponents on the Republican primary ticket for governor. Former senator Mike Dunleavy and businessman Scott Hawkins, both of whom have been campaigning for months, have been leading the field. Alaska Rep. Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski) had been campaigning but withdrew his candidacy for personal reasons.
Five other Republican candidates — Darin Colbry of Anchorage, Thomas Gordon of Wasilla, Gerald Heikes of Palmer, Merica Hlatcu of Anchorage and Michael Sheldon of Petersburg — have also filed for the Republican primary. One candidate, William Toien of Anchorage, has filed for the Libertarian party primary.
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