U.S House candidates introduced at Chamber of Commerce Luncheon

Candidates challenging incumbent Republican Don Young for Alaska’s single seat in the U.S House of Representatives participated Wednesday in a forum hosted by the Kenai Chamber of Commerce.

Although Young, who gave a speech the previous day to a joint Kenia and Soldotna Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Soldotna Sports Complex, declined his invitation to the forum, six of his eight challengers were present at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center to give 60-second opening and closing remarks and 30-second answers to questions from a moderator.

In party primary elections on Aug. 16, Young will face three Republican challengers, two of whom participated in Wednesday’s forum. Gerald Heikes, a minister at Anchorage’s nondenominational Bethel Chapel, introduced himself as a “Constitutional Christian conservative.” Heikes has previously run for the offices of Alaska governor in 2006, 2010, 2014, and for U.S Senate in 2008.

“I’m running because we need a change in Washington DC from the top to the bottom,” Heikes said. “Even the Republicans that are in there right now, the majority of them are in the pocket of Obama.”

Stephen Wright said he was born on Elmendorf Air Force Base and went on to a 22-year Air Force career himself, retiring in 2014.

“We are Alaskans first and we need to take care of Alaska,” Wright said. “Restore the lands that have been promised to us by the federal government, maybe get some more of those lands they shouldn’t have. I don’t believe the federal government should have more than 10 percent of any land.”

The third Republican in the race is Jesse Tingley of Wasilla, who did not attend.

A Democrat and Libertarian candidate will also emerge from the Aug. 16 primaries. All three democrats — University of Alaska Fairbanks oceanography professor Bill Hibler, former news editor Steve Lindbeck, and Anchorage airport wheelchair assistant Lynette Hinz — were at Wednesday’s forum. Hibler said he’s running as a “Bernie Sanders democrat to carry the progressive policies of Sanders forward.”

“I believe Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States,” Hibler said. “However, Bernie Sanders is and remains the prophet of the Democratic party. If elected, I will go to congress and help president Clinton maintain her embrace of the Sanders progressive program.”

Lindbeck, former editor of the Anchorage Daily News and Anchorage Times and director of Alaska Public Media, described himself as “an Alaskan democrat.”

“I put it in that order deliberately because Alaska is where I live,” Lindbeck said. “Alaska has been a place of hard work and great opportunity for me, and I’m in this race because I want to see that our kids and grandkids have even greater chances for hard work and opportunity here … There are many opportunities here ahead of us if we allow ourselves to enter the new internet era of competition, opportunity and entrepreneurial creativity.”

Hinz, who arrived after the forum had already started and missed most of the question and answer period, said she’d had a previous 34-year career as an Anchorage cab driver, where she’d “seen the economy in Alaska go up and down through the boom.” Many of her concerns were economic.

“I believe in the minimum wage to be raised to $15 per hour, because we don’t have many job sources here,” Hinz said. “We don’t have factories and all that going for us. But we do have this great state and all the beautiful air and water and land here for us.”

It is Hinz’s second run for office. In 2012 she lost the Democratic primary for the state House of Representatives in district 25.

The Libertarian nominee will be either University of Alaska Fairbanks business instructor James McDermott or Jon Briggs Watts, a Fairbanks retired Air Force Master Sergeant and owner of a health care business.

“From a Libertarian perspective, people sometimes ask me, ‘what’s my plan?’” Watts said, speaking of his intent if elected. “I’ll be honest, I don’t have a plan. What I mean by that is that your plan is the most important thing. Not somebody from above you who tells you what some plan is going to be. So my function would be to reduce, repeal, rescind, and ultimately revive the economy by basically getting out of the way of people’s day to day business.”

The Democrat and Libertarian parties allow any registered voter to vote in the Aug. 16 primaries. The Republican primary will be limited to registered Republicans. The representative will be selected in the Nov. 8 general election.


Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boetteger@peninsulaclarion.com.

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