FAIRBANKS — New “interim” House District 38 combines the western Fairbanks communities of Ester and the Goldstream Valley with Parks Highway communities around Denali National Park and Preserve and more than a dozen rural villages extending west to the Bering Sea.
It’s one of the newly created districts that’s facing a legal challenge on grounds that it covers areas with little in common. For this election cycle at least, the district will stand as is.
Competing for the seat are Democratic Rep. David Guttenberg, Republican Rep. Alan Dick and Dorothy Shockley, a no-party candidate who is a
longtime staffer to a Democratic state senator. The district is one of three new districts in the Interior that matched two incumbents against each other.
Division of Elections registration numbers show District 38 consists of 37.5 percent Fairbanks-area voters, 20.7 percent Parks Highway voters and 41.8 percent voters from more than a dozen villages between Tanana Valley communities such as Minto and Tanana and west to villages like Scammon Bay and Hooper Bay.
The three candidates have backgrounds that touch both the rural and Fairbanks sides of the district.
Dick, 67, is a former schoolteacher who lives in Nenana but has lived in rural villages most of his career. He speaks some Yupik, a skill he said has been useful on the campaign, and is married to an Athabascan woman. Also helpful is his Piper Cherokee, an airplane he says helps him both campaign and represent such a big district.
Dick chaired the Education Committee during his first term in the House, which he is just completing, and he talks like a teacher in his complaints about Alaska’s education system.
“Do you think every child needs to know Pythagorean triples, binomial identities, adding scalars and vectors, and simultaneous equations?” he asked, listing a series of math terms he believes should not be in the curriculum for most students. The current education system is failing students in rural Alaska because it is not relevant to their lives, he said.
If sent back to Juneau, he wants to pass legislation that would make the curriculum more relevant to the jobs most students will pursue.
Guttenberg, 61, is former pipeline worker originally from New York and is the senior member of Alaska’s legislative delegation, having served in the House since 2002.
Asked about his main accomplishments as a representative, Guttenberg identified three issues.
First, he said he helped bring a veterans cemetery to Fairbanks. Plans are in the works for putting the cemetery off the Steese Highway near Fox. Guttenberg also said he took pride in a resolution that criticized the U.S. Patriot Act on civil liberties grounds. Most recently, in the 2012 session, Guttenberg pointed to a bill he introduced that requires insurance companies to offer plans covering children. This helped protect children who could not be protected by their parents’ plans, he said.
Outside his work in Juneau, Guttenberg recently got into the business of growing peonies, taking advantage of Fairbanks’ unique climate to export the decorative perennial flowers during the season when they’re hard to grow Outside.
Shockley has not held elected office but said her work experience, including time as a Tanana Chiefs Conference executive board member and eight years on the staff of Democratic Sen. Al Kookesh, has prepared her for representing District 38. Among District 38 communities she’s lived in both Manley Hot Springs and Tanana.
Shockley said she registered as a non-partisan for this race because she’s been impressed by the work of the state Senate’s bipartisan caucus.
“I have seen the bipartisan coalition work very well in the Senate and would like to apply the same principles,” she said.
Barring a major political shift in the election Tuesday, a bipartisan coalition is not expected to form next year in the House.
She identified state support for rural communities, in particular for sanitation, as her top campaign issue.
“We still have over 6,000 homes in this state without water and sewer” she said. “To me that is just a shame, or a crime if you want to call it that. The state as of 2009 had made around $190 billion in revenue from the oil and only one-tenth of 1 percent of that has gone to rural water and sewer.”
Oil and gas
Despite different backgrounds, all three candidates expressed similar platforms on oil taxes and Interior energy costs, two key issues expected to play a major role in the Legislature this year.
All say they support lowering taxes on oil companies, although they suggested different mechanisms to tie taxes to a guarantee of increased oil production.
During the campaign, Guttenberg has attacked Dick in advertisements for his support of House Bill 110, an oil tax bill supported by Gov. Sean Parnell that Democrats call a “$2 billion giveaway” because it would lower taxes without any explicit guarantee from oil companies that they would increase oil production.
Dick voted for House Bill 110 but said it was a vote overwhelmingly supported by his constituents. As he saw, it was a vote in support of doing something to increase oil production.
“HB110 as we had it was a choice between ugly and uglier,” he said. “It was do nothing or take a chance.”
Dick said he has since become more knowledgeable about the subject and now favors an approach that would keep existing oil taxes similar for oil produced below the line of anticipated production decline. Oil companies would get a tax break on oil production above the projected decline line. Shockley favors the same approach.
Guttenberg advocates for a similar tax change that would give companies a break on new projects.
All three candidates support some kind of direct payment to communities struggling with high energy costs while the state investigates a longer-term solution. Dick and Guttenberg support a targeted direct payment program — different than the 2008 energy payments that went to all Alaskans. Shockley supports state action to tie the price of heating oil to the price of natural gas in Anchorage.
Dick has raised almost 20 percent more money than Guttenberg, and both candidates had raised considerably more than Shockley, as of Tuesday’s seven-day pre-election campaign finance filing. Guttenberg’s total campaign income was $43,148 as of Tuesday. Among his contributors was Fairbanks borough Mayor Luke Hopkins. Dick had raised $52,392 as of Tuesday. Former Alaska Gov. and U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski was among his contributors. Shockley’s campaign income total was $14,495.
Contact staff writer Sam Friedman at 459-7545.