Lt. governor candidates talk in Kenai

The three candidates running for lieutenant governor of Alaska outlined their platforms Tuesday during a public forum at the Kenai Visitor and Cultural Center.

Andrew Lee, running on the Libertarian ticket, commented that he has not often been asked to join public forums for the lieutenant governor race since campaigning for the seat began.

Lee, who has not previously held a position in public office, is up against the current mayor of Anchorage, Dan Sullivan, and Democrat Byron Mallott, who combined his campaign with independent candidate Bill Walker.

Lee owns and operates a Bering Sea gold dredging company, and has a background in computer programming, which he said brings a unique skill to the table.

Mallott is the former executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation and president of the Alaska Federation of Natives. He also has served as the mayor of Yakutat and Juneau.

Sullivan is reaching his term limit as Anchorage mayor. He previously served as chairman while he was a member on the Anchorage Assembly.

During Tuesday’s forum, Sullivan referenced his support of running mate Gov. Sean Parnell, including the choice to support Senate Bill 21, mentioning how the current deficit facing the state due to a drop in oil prices would be $150 million greater had voters repealed the measure.

Mallott later said SB21 should never have been put before the electorate. He said it was a shift in where the responsibility should be placed and reflects a breakdown in communication and leadership.

Mallott made the comment in response to whether the state is properly utilizing the referendum process. He said referendums provide an outlet for elected officials to make sure they are creating policy that aligns with public opinion, but they are overused.

Lee said he prefers public officials to be making the decisions, who are elected to be experts on the issues. In his responses during the forum, he often attributed his viewpoint as aligning with Libertarian standards.

The Libertarian ticket is the only one on the ballot to endorse the pro-choice position and strongly supports funding to public schools, Lee said.

When it comes to Proposition 2 and the potential for legalization of marijuana in Alaska, Lee said he supports the libertarian viewpoint that citizens should be allowed the maximum amount of personal freedoms, as long as they do not harm others. But he said during campaigning he has met pot smokers who will be voting against the proposition.

“If you like your drug dealer, you keep your drug dealer, but maybe Prop 2 doesn’t help that,” Lee said.

Sullivan said he has somewhat of a libertarian streak in him and agrees people should be able to do what they want in their own homes. However, legalized recreational marijuana may limit eligible workers who are abiding by state law, but want to work for a company that requires a drug test to get hired on.

Mallott said legalization is creating an industry Alaska does not need. Substance abuse is already a local issue here, he said.

The Walker-Mallott ticket is non-partisan, bipartisan and all partisan, Mallott said. The platform is about seeing change in Alaska.

Mallott was the only candidate to speak in support of raising the minimum wage, which he said will stimulate the economy over time. The currently proposed raises are very modest, he said.

“The government should not be trying to artificially set minimum wage standards,” Sullivan said. “That is not the role of the government.”

Lee agreed with Sullivan, saying he does not want the government to interfere with contracts between individuals.