FAIRBANKS — Three-term Fairbanks Rep. Scott Kawasaki and real estate broker David Pruhs are competing for House District 4 in a race that has largely focused on the importance of party affiliation.
Both candidates agree on several key issues, including the need for energy cost relief, but they disagree on how much party affiliation matters in Juneau.
Kawasaki, 37, first won election in 2006 and is the second-most senior member of the Interior’s House delegation, after Rep. David Guttenberg. Kawasaki works as a senior patient representative for Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.
Pruhs, 52, works as a real estate broker and has served on the Fairbanks North Star Borough’s Planning Commission and the Board of Equalization.
The candidates have largely agreed on an all-of-the-above path to energy cost relief for the Interior, including support for natural gas trucking, an in-state natural gas pipeline and state funding for major infrastructure projects.
Kawasaki said the approach is “not the silver bullet that everybody talks about, it’s not a silver bullet. It’s a shotgun with silver buckshot.”
Pruhs agreed. He has put forward a four-part plan, which includes reopening the Healy Clean Coal Project, to reduce energy costs for the Interior.
But they disagree about party affiliation.
Pruhs said Kawasaki has been ineffective because he’s in the Democratic minority. As a Republican, Pruhs argued, he would make a better representative for the Interior because there would be an “R” next to his name.
“If elected, I’m in the majority,” he said. “I have a seat at the table for a capital budget, and I have better input for Fairbanks. That’s the difference.”
It’s an argument that has produced a number of testy exchanges at forums as Pruhs attacked Kawasaki’s record.
During his three terms, Kawasaki has been the prime sponsor on just two pieces of legislation that have been signed into law, both of which were co-sponsored by Republicans.
By comparison, freshman Rep. Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks, passed three major pieces of legislation, one of which faced steep opposition by some members of the Senate.
Kawasaki said his bill count doesn’t reflect the behind-the-scenes work he has done to support legislation that has passed.
“Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or an independent, it has more to do with your personality, who you are and who you’re willing to work with,” he said. “I’ve been working hard across party lines and working hard with the Senate.”
He said counting the number of bills passed is a poor way to judge effectiveness.
“His criticism is that I haven’t passed a bill with my name on it. That’s the one thing I don’t get, a bill with my name on it,” he said. “But that’s how the legislative process works. I don’t need credit for everything, and people who go down and want to get credit for everything, I think that’s a real scary thought.”
Kawasaki said his ability to work with others effectively has been confirmed by a slew of endorsements he’s received that range from groups like union and trade groups, the National Rifle Association (Kawasaki is the only member of the House Democrats to win such an endorsement) and even the Alaska Association of Realtors PAC.
“I think it’s telling that I’ve been endorsed by the realtors,” he said. “I would have expected they would have supported one of their own.”
Pruhs dismissed the endorsement, saying he doesn’t actively participate in the statewide real estate community so he didn’t expect to be guaranteed the association’s support.
Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544 or follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.