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Ideology, party separates House District 2 House candidates

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Posted: Sunday, October 28, 2012 11:39 pm

FAIRBANKS — Rep. Bob Miller and Rep. Tammie Wilson are rivals for House District 2, and both are entering new territory.

Legislative redistricting has drawn Miller, a Democrat, and Wilson, a Republican, into a new district that roughly follows the areas around and northeast of the Steese Highway and Chena Hot Springs Road. The winner of the Nov. 6 contest will represent plenty of new constituents.

Wilson’s previous district surrounded the Richardson Highway between Fort Wainwright and Eielson Air Force Base, with North Pole at its heart. Almost all of District 2 is north of that area, including Two Rivers, Fox and portions of Badger Road.

The district boundaries are closer to the territory of Miller’s previous district, although it extends farther south of Chena Hot Springs Road instead of following portions of Goldstream Road and the area north of Ester.

The redrawn House District 2 has a strongly Republican tilt, with voters affiliated with the GOP outnumbering Democrats by a nearly 3-to-1 ratio. The number of registered Republicans (4,284) and Democrats (1,494) in the district are outpaced, however, by voters who are undeclared (5,083) or nonpartisan (2,467). The district also includes 459 Alaskan Independence Party members among the smaller-party registrants.

Wilson, 50, and Miller, 59, are finishing their first full terms in Juneau. Wilson, a former Borough Assembly member and mayoral candidate, was appointed to the Legislature by Gov. Sean Parnell in 2009, when Rep. John Coghill’s seat became vacant after he was appointed to the Senate. She was elected to the seat the following year.

Miller also was elected to the Legislature in 2010, defeating incumbent Rep. Mike Kelly. He previously worked as a TV news anchor and entertainer at the Malemute Saloon.

Both Wilson and Miller said getting state support for a gas trucking and distribution plans is one of their priorities. The candidates have different views on oil tax reform, the issue that dominated the last legislative session and which is likely to be the focus of the next one.

Wilson said reform is needed to keep the state competitive with other oil-producing regions. Without an attractive tax regime, she said, oil companies will invest elsewhere.

“I think we can see North Dakota and Texas and see they’re both excelling while we fall behind,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the final tax reform bill passed by the House was a good solution, since it held off on tax reductions for two years. If the change didn’t spur significant oil company investment during that time, she said, the Legislature could revisit the issue.

Miller said he’s open to a new tax regime for oil companies but is critical of the plan advanced by Parnell. He said that tax cut would slash $2 billion per year from the state treasury, creating an immediate disaster for the budget.

Miller said the state needs to get past the mindset of being a “corporate colony” with companies extracting resources and leaving and should instead move toward a balanced approach. He believes a middle ground — one less generous than Parnell’s plan — can be found.

“We should be partnering up with them,” he said. “We shouldn’t be allowing them to dictate terms to us.”

Wilson said another priority is cutting red tape in state government, which she believes is a deterrent to economic growth.

“I still feel like we are very over-regulated,” she said. “I feel like if we’re going to grow as a community, we need to help small businesses.”

Miller said a key state priority should be investment in areas that could diversify the economy. That includes a greater focus on education and money for infrastructure projects such as an Arctic port, a railway expansion and an Interior concrete manufacturing plant.

“I’m incredibly optimistic about what we can do in Alaska,” he said.

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