Rep. Sarah Vance (R-Homer) is making a run at a second term in office representing District 31 in the Alaska House of Representatives.
She’s running in the Republican Party in the August Primary Election. Vance faces Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly President Kelly Cooper as a challenger for the seat, but Cooper is running in the General Election as an Independent, not the Primary. In the August Primary, Vance faces no opposition.
After defeating former Rep. Paul Seaton in 2018, Vance has served her freshman term in the House working toward public safety reform, advocating for a Permanent Fund Dividend calculated using the traditional formula and pushing for less government spending. The PFD is still a major part of her campaign that she’s sticking to, she said.
While she’s proud of having had a hand in repealing Senate Bill 91, the sweeping crime reform bill, Vance said she feels she still has work to do.
“I feel like I have not completed the job of what people elected me to do,” she said.
She’s continuing to focus on the PFD and a return to the traditional formula because “it’s the people’s issue,” she said. Vance said the PFD amount has become politicized over the years, when it wasn’t like that while she was growing up.
Vance is also advocating for a constitutional spending cap, or a stronger one. She said that while it’s already in the Alaska Constitution, it’s not very effective.
“I would like to see a stronger constitutional spending cap that restrains the size of government and helps us work more efficiently,” she said.
Of course, the biggest issue this coming year in the Alaska Legislature will be the looming deficit, complicated by the economic fallout caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have a $1.5 billion deficit that can’t be ignored,” Vance said.
With much of the state’s savings having been spent down over the last several legislative sessions, Vance said lawmakers need to find a better way. While Vance is not in favor of instituting statewide taxes, such as a sales or income tax, she did say it’s unlikely Alaska will be able to cut its way out of the deficit.
“The reality is that we probably can’t cut that much,” she said.
In that case, Vance said it becomes about finding ways to better utilize state dollars. She pointed to the health care sector in Alaska and its ever-rising costs. Finding ways to reduce the cost of medical equipment and health care services in Alaska would help the budget, Vance said.
Looking at taxes, Vance said bringing them up while Alaskans are struggling to weather the financial hardships caused by the novel coronavirus isn’t wise.
“I think the normal budget conversation is going to have a different tone to it this year,” she said.
When it came to helping disperse federal CARES Act funds to Alaska communities, Vance said she was proud of how quickly the Legislature came together with a unified goal of providing relief as soon as possible. However, she did feel certain sectors like commercial fishermen were overlooked in the process and wasn’t happy with how long it took to get the funds out to local communities.
“The unfortunate part is that we’re not seeing the money getting to the hands of the businesses as soon as we hoped,” Vance said.
On a more local level, Vance has been working to address the issue of abandoned and derelict vehicles outside of city limits in her district. She’s been in contact with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and actually got $100,000 in the last budget to help with cleanup efforts, but it was eventually taken out. Vance said there’s a working group starting in a few weeks to further address the abandoned vehicle issue.
Her end goal is to come up with substantive legislation that will help curtail the problem.
Vance is also part of the Facebook group Homer’s Sons of Liberty, which drew some community backlash after its organizer hosted a beach gathering while state mandates against such gatherings were still in place. Vance addressed her membership in the group, saying it’s no different than being part of the Homer Communications Facebook group. She joined as a means for having conversations about constitutional rights, she said.
Vance said, in general, miscommunication tends to get people in trouble. With respect to the ongoing pandemic, Vance said “this is a very real virus” and that she’s tried to use her platforms to get facts and information out to constituents.
“And I’ve always from the very beginning said, hey, follow the guidelines (and) stay informed,” she said.
So far, Vance’s campaign has raised a total of $37,646 for this election since February 2019, according to reports filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission. The campaign has spent a total of $5,521 so far.
She’s received $3,500 from Alaska Republicans Inc., $1,000 from AMAPAC, $1,000 from the Republican Women of the Kenai, $1,000 from Republican Women of Juneau, $500 from the Enstar Employee PAC, $500 from current Mat-Su Borough Assembly member and Alaska House of Representatives candidate Jesse Sumner, and $500 from conservative blogger Suzanne Downing.
While COVID-19 makes door-to-door visits and traditional campaigning more difficult to accomplish, Vance said she’s transitioning to having smaller meetings with voters. In her previous campaign, Vance said she would often attend large community meetings or town halls to connect with people there. The pandemic has restricted the ability to meet people where they are, she said.
Still, she’s working to get her message out there. Smaller gatherings and a lot more phone calls are the order of the day for the campaign.
“I just want to reiterate how much I love representing this district,” Vance said. “This is my home, and being able to be a voice in Juneau for the people of the lower peninsula has been such a privilege, and I look forward to continuing that.”
Reach Megan Pacer at firstname.lastname@example.org.