FAIRBANKS — The three candidates running for House District 9 include a longtime Mat-Su Borough office holder, a recent convert to the Constitution Party and a Democrat running a no-budget campaign.
That trio sets an interesting contrast for voters in the sprawling district, which follows the Richardson Highway from Delta Junction to Valdez, along with a vast eastern portion of the Mat-Su Borough.
The district is certain to send a new face to the Legislature. Republican Jim Colver claimed the GOP nomination after toppling Rep. Eric Feige in a hotly contested three-way primary.
Pam Goode, a longtime GOP member, has joined the race after a shift to the Constitution Party. Lodge owner Mabel Wimmer is making an unconventional run as a Democrat, vowing to collect no money and distribute no campaign signs in the district.
They’re competing in a conservative district where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by a more than 4-to-1 ratio. Nonpartisan and undeclared voters are the biggest voting groups, however, with more than 7,000 combined voters with those affiliations.
Colver, a Mat-Su Borough assemblyman and former school board member, is by far the best-funded candidate, collecting nearly $74,000 since launching his bid for the Legislature. The Hatcher Pass resident is the owner of a surveying company, and has mentioned his ability to get things done as a steady theme.
“I work with others to solve problems — you need to be able to reach out to get things done,” he said.
Goode was a stalwart Republican for many years — she served as a 2012 delegate to the Republican National Convention — who said she was attracted to the pro-Constitution, pro-liberty philosophy of the Constitution Party. Goode said every vote she makes will begin with a simple question: Is it constitutional?
“I’ve noticed there’s no dialogue about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in our history,” she said.
After a career at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Goode and her husband, James Squyres, embarked on an 11-year-long sailboat journey around the world. Afterward, they moved to Delta Junction specifically because they felt life in an unorganized borough would offer the greatest level of personal freedom.
Goode has brought in about $7,400 in campaign funds.
Wimmer is running an unorthodox campaign — no budget, no advertising and little travel through the district. The District 9 chairwoman of the Democratic Party talks politics with people who stop by the bar at the no-waste lodge she operates with her husband, Russ, about 40 miles south of Glennallen.
She’s vowed not to accept any money, and state records list only $100 in contributions. Wimmer said she’s wary of the influence that money has on politics.
“You see all of these people running and there’s a lot of focus on outside issues that don’t pertain to this state,” she said.
What do you see as your top priorities if elected to the Legislature?
Colver is emphasizing a no-nonsense approach to resource development and cutting through red tape. He said state government is in the habit of studying projects instead of working to advance them. Colver lists a short-term natural gas project — either trucked from the North Slope or moved by rail from Cook Inlet — as a top priority. He also is an advocate of state-funded weatherization programs to cut utility bills.
He said residents and businesses deserve “maximum freedom” to operate, with fewer regulations impeding them.
“I’m just ready to get some projects done,” he said. “I don’t have a lot of patience in government.”
Goode is an advocate for maintaining unorganized boroughs, fighting government intrusion into privacy and battling Common Core, a broad set of standards for education.
“Big government’s getting bigger, so the privacy issue is huge,” she said.
Goode believes the free-market needs to dictate feasible energy solutions, such as natural gas projects. She said solutions like biomass and alternative energy can help cut costs, rather than waiting for a government solution.
Goode is also a strong supporter of routing some state education funding to private schools, saying parents deserve more educational choice. It’s a contrast to Colver, who said the state simply can’t afford to divert money away from public education.
Wimmer said she’ll eye projects skeptically that benefit specific groups, citing the Knik River bridge and a proposed road to Juneau as examples. She vows to be a voice to the people of her district, rather than being beholden to special interests.
Colver has said he will caucus with a Republican-led majority. Goode said she’s opposed to joining a caucus that will dictate how she votes on specific issues, including the budget.
“When you give up that voice, you give up the voice of the constituents that sent you there,” she said.
How do you plan to address projected shortfalls in the state budget?
All of the candidates say the state budget needs to be cut amid declining oil revenues.
Wimmer said her philosophy sounds strange for a progressive Democrat, but she believes Alaskans skew toward a “zero government, no taxes” approach. She believes changes to the state’s oil tax structure will cost the state badly needed revenue, making it more difficult to meet budget goals in the long run.
Colver said his spending priorities will be public safety and education. He said other areas need to be examined to see whether they’re necessary and efficient, but that the state needs to continue to invest in capital projects, such as roads and a rail line to Point MacKenzie.
“That’s fine for projects that are going to give us some return on investment,” he said.
Goode said government is, by definition, inefficient. She said a friendly business environment should be fostered to spark the Alaska economy.
She advocates across-the-board cuts to state budgets, as well as targeted cuts to unspecified pork. Without such moves, she said, it’s inevitable that Alaskans will face a statewide sales tax or income tax within a decade.
How are you campaigning in such a vast district?
Goode and Colver have both traveled extensively, talking to groups in various communities along the Richardson Highway and Mat-Su Borough. Colver said he’s been emphasizing local politics, learning about road projects and infrastructure maintenance along the way.
Goode is touting herself as the only conservative candidate in the race. She said Colver was the most liberal GOP candidate in the primary, with unions and Democrats among his contributors.
She’s been working convince people that voting for a Constitution Party candidate won’t split the conservative vote to elect a Democrat. District 9 is conservative enough that it’s impossible to do, she said.
Wimmer is running a decidedly low-profile operation. She doesn’t even have campaign signs, saying they don’t mesh with her no-waste philosophy.
Wimmer admits the approach makes the race an “uphill battle” but said she’s happy to run a grassroots effort by talking to voters and submitting opinion columns in local newspapers. She said there is growing apathy in politics, and she urges people to learn about the candidates and
“There’s three wonderful people running,” she said. “Vote your conscience, get to know these people.”
For more information on the candidates and their stances on many other issues, visit the News-Miner’s online election section at newsminer.com/news/politics.
Age: 56 Occupation: Surveying company owner Public office: Mat-Su Borough Assembly, 2000-06, 2009-present; Mat-Su school board, 2006-09
Age: 55 Occupation: Various positions at NASA Johnson Space Center, 1980-97 Public office: Deltana Community Corporation Board of Directors
Age: 57 Occupation: Co-owner, Mendeltna Creek Lodge
Public office: none
Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518. Follow him on Twitter: