From left: Alaska gubernatorial candidates former Gov. Bill Walker, former Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce and former state lawmaker Les Gara participate in a candidate forum hosted by the Homer Chamber of Commerce at Land’s End Resort on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, in Homer, Alaska. (Screenshot)

From left: Alaska gubernatorial candidates former Gov. Bill Walker, former Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce and former state lawmaker Les Gara participate in a candidate forum hosted by the Homer Chamber of Commerce at Land’s End Resort on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, in Homer, Alaska. (Screenshot)

Pierce stakes out positions in Homer debate

Pierce’s appearance was the second forum he has participated since announcing his bid for governor

Former Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor and gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Pierce fielded questions about his platform Thursday during a candidate forum hosted by the Homer Chamber of Commerce at Land’s End Resort in Homer.

The forum, which lasted for about an hour and a half, also featured Democratic candidate Les Gara, a former state lawmaker, and nonpartisan candidate Bill Walker, a former Alaska governor. The two brought their gubernatorial bids to the central peninsula last month for a forum hosted by the Kenai and Soldotna chambers of commerce.

Pierce’s appearance at Thursday’s forum was the second in which he has participated since announcing his bid for governor in January and came a week after Pierce’s official last day as mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough. The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly said in a statement last month that Pierce was asked to consider resigning as a way to resolve an allegation of harassment made against him this summer. Pierce was not asked Thursday about the circumstances surrounding his resignation.

The former borough mayor offered snappy stances on some of the state’s top issues throughout the forum. He said he supports a constitutional convention and statewide natural resource development, but doesn’t support ranked choice voting, which he said has created a lot of confusion among voters.

That differed from the positions of Gara and Walker, who have said Alaskans should give the system a try considering ranked choice voting was a change approved by voters.

Pierce described himself as pro-resource development and said Alaska is good at “killing projects” on an “environmental basis.” He suggested resource developers partner with environmental groups to find common ground and said, for example, that advocates of the controversial Pebble Mine project “go somewhere else in Alaska.”

Walker said fisheries policies need to be based in science rather than politics, while Gara bashed Dunleavy for the almost-closure of Cook Inlet’s federal waters to commercial salmon fishing and called the state task force on bycatch “nonbinding.”

Pierce further called upon state leaders to take more concrete action in response to trawler bycatch and declining fisheries, using Kodiak crab and Kenai River chinook salmon as examples.

“We need leaders that are going to step up and make decisions,” Pierce said. “(Do) we need biologists? Then hire the biologists and get enough biologists in there that can make some smart decisions and start managing this fishery. I worry that it’s too late. I worry for the king fishery in the Kenai.”

Pierce multiple times during Thursday’s forum condemned inefficiencies in the Alaska Legislature and what he called a “lack of urgency” among Alaska leaders to solve state problems.

“It bothers me to no end: there’s no urgency from our leaders,” Pierce said. “They worry more about their party affiliation than … about the results they produce. Every day, they go down there and they spend 90, 120 days (and) they can’t even get out of there on time. Everybody’s worried about paying them per diem and they’re not worried about the results. Alaskans are bleeding. We need a leader to lead this state and turn this place around. We need some leadership.”

Pierce pointed to education as an area where Alaska needs to improve, particularly when it comes to literacy rates among primary school students. U.S. News & World Report ranks Alaska’s education system 49th nationwide. Results from 2021 Performance Evaluation of Alaska’s Schools, or PEAKS, assessments show that Kenai Peninsula students tend to have higher scores than statewide averages, but that all grade levels struggle to hit 50% proficiency in math and reading.

When asked whether they would support a statewide income tax in lieu of tapping into Alaska Permanent Fund dividend revenue, candidates had different takes.

Gara said he doesn’t think Alaska needs an income tax or a sales tax, but should cut tax credits for oil companies. Walker said he doesn’t think the dividend should be used to balance the state budget, and that any tax proposals happen at the legislative level. Pierce said he doesn’t support taxation, which he called “regressive,” and said that talking about taxation shows that Alaska “is going in the tank.”

Candidates had similarly diverging opinions about abortion, which is a newly state-level issue following the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Walker said that the Alaska Constitution protects a woman’s right to choose and as governor he would take oath to defend the Constitution. Gara has billed himself as the only pro-choice candidate running for governor and said it is not his decision what a woman should do with her body. Pierce called for more statewide adoption programs that could be used in the case of unwanted pregnancies.

Ultimately, Pierce doubled down on his “Results not Rhetoric” slogan.

“I really don’t care who’s elected,” Pierce said. “I want to see some results.”

The Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc. announced Friday that Pierce would be attending their Governor’s Debate on Resource Development, which will be held on Oct. 11 at the Egan Center in Anchorage. Confirmed attendees also include Gara, Walker and Dunleavy.

Thursday’s gubernatorial debate can be streamed on KBBI’s website at

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at

More in News

The waters of Cook Inlet lap against Nikishka Beach in Nikiski, Alaska, where several local fish sites are located, on Friday, March 24, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Unprecedented closures threaten setnet way of life

Setnetters have been vocal about their opposition to the way their fishery is managed

Legislative fiscal analysts Alexei Painter, right, and Conor Bell explain the state’s financial outlook during the next decade to the Senate Finance Committee on Friday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Legislators eye oil and sales taxes due to fiscal woes

Bills to collect more from North Slope producers, enact new sales taxes get hearings next week.

Expert skateboarder Di’Orr Greenwood, an artist born and raised in the Navajo Nation in Arizona and whose work is featured on the new U.S. stamps, rides her skateboard next to her artworks in the Venice Beach neighborhood in Los Angeles Monday, March 20, 2023. On Friday, March 24, the U.S. Postal Service is debuting the “Art of the Skateboard,” four stamps that will be the first to pay tribute to skateboarding. The stamps underscore how prevalent skateboarding has become, especially in Indian Country, where the demand for designated skate spots has only grown in recent years. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Indigenous artists help skateboarding earn stamp of approval

The postal agency ceremoniously unveiled the “Art of the Skateboard” stamps in a Phoenix skate park

Bruce Jaffa, of Jaffa Construction, speaks to a group of students at Seward High School’s Career Day on Thursday, March 23, 2023, at Seward High School in Seward, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Seward students talk careers at fair

More than 50 businesses were represented

Alaska state Sen. Bert Stedman, center, a co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee, listens to a presentation on the major North Slope oil project known as the Willow project on Thursday, March 23, 2023, in Juneau, Alaska. The committee heard an update on the project from the state Department of Natural Resources and the state Department of Revenue. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)
Official: Willow oil project holds promise, faces obstacles

State tax officials on Thursday provided lawmakers an analysis of potential revenue impacts and benefits from the project

Jerry Burnett, chair of the Board of Game, speaks during their Southcentral meeting on Friday, March 17, 2023, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Board of Game decides on local proposals

Trapping setbacks, archery hunts and duck restrictions were up for consideration

Audre Hickey testifies in opposition to an ordinance that would implement a citywide lewdness prohibition in Soldotna during a city council meeting on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna council kills citywide lewdness ordinance

The decision followed lengthy public comment

Samantha Springer, left, and Michelle Walker stand in the lobby of the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Springer named new head of Kenai chamber

Springer, who was raised in Anchorage, said she’s lived on the Kenai Peninsula since 2021

Forever Dance performers rehearse “Storytellers” on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, at the Renee C. Henderson Auditorium in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Storytellers’ weave tales with their feet

Dance and literature intersect in latest Forever Dance showcase

Most Read