By Naomi Klouda
Campaign spending has shifted into high gear on the Kenai Peninsula, with Republican challenger Peter Micciche the top spender so far in his race to oust incumbent Sen. Tom Wagoner of District O.
Jon Faulkner is giving Rep. Paul Seaton a run for his money as he seeks to take that seat in District 30.
Faulkner is running as a “true” conservative, he said, making statements about the shades of gray in the current practices of Republican Seaton.
“A lot of big issues are facing us as a state, and I’d like to think I can help in that regard. We need a more conservative choice. Shades of gray? Not very distinct in virtually every aspect of what it means to be a Republican,” Faulkner writes of his views. “Philosophical differences. Abortion, oil taxes. Across the
spectrum, of issues I represent the more conservative choice.”
Faulkner has won the backing of Fred Sturman, who ran against Mike Navarre as the more conservative choice for Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor, and former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman, and yet also attracted the moderate former Sen. Gail Phillips. He said he hasn’t solicited official endorsements. The message he wants to get to voters is that he is offering a choice, and that Seaton’s voting record doesn’t support his representations of what he stands for as a Republican.
Seaton counters that assertion.
“I don’t think he’s had any positions that are truly conservative. He is asking for a comprehensive education system. I’ve never thought of conservative as taking away things done traditionally locally. I don’t want to have big government agencies take over and design a curriculum, as he is advocating,” Seaton said. “We have local control of education so that you have engagement based on things happening in those local communities,” Seaton said.
Seaton used to refer to himself as fiscally conservative, but finds it clearer to say he has fiscal responsibility.
“I define myself as making sure we have local government do the maximum that it can,” Seaton said. “I’m in favor of coastal zone management because it would give local control. He favors letting a larger government control the process.”
The word “conservative” is being misused, Seaton said.
“I don’t know when ‘conservative’ came to mean you aren’t aligned with local and individual responsibilities, and accountability. Conservative has come to mean the opposite. Now I don’t use that word so much anymore.”
Meanwhile, because Micciche works for ConocoPhillips as the superintendent of the Kenai Liquid Natural Gas Facility, word was circulating last week that he would likely be in the lineup favorable to Gov. Sean Parnell’s tax breaks for oil companies. However, Micciche said he doesn’t favor the governor’s tax break proposal.
“We need to encourage further investment that leads to increased production, but I do not support the governor’s plan. I believe a tax reduction needs to be tied to guarantees that ensure production,” Micciche said Monday.
“The success of my campaign is that I have raised more money than my opponent. The contributors have been almost entirely Kenai Peninsula residents from Homer to Kenai,” he said. “Incumbents tend to bring money in from outside the district.”
Wagoner said it’s fairly common to hold campaign fundraisers in Anchorage, but that the bulk of his support comes from the peninsula. He said he also wants to counter a rumor that is making the rounds that he does not live on the peninsula.
“That’s just nonsense. I do spend some time Outside, close to Desert Hot Springs, (Calif.). Our daughter lives there and we go visit. Also, I am required to go Outside every six months for five years for a prostrate checkup,” Wagoner said. “I’m doing fine.”
Wagoner’s campaign highlights his legislation rekindling oil and gas development in Cook Inlet. He successfully sponsored a bill that was passed two years ago that gives incentives for development, creating what he calls the “Cook Inlet stampede.”
No one has yet applied for the credit to receive the incentive for being the first jack-up rig in the inlet. Hillcorp, Apache, Buccaneer and Escopeda are all involved in new drilling operations in the inlet.
“I think we’re doing all right,” Wagoner said. “We have a campaign plan, and that’s the way we’ve always run our campaign. It’s not cheap to run a campaign, even in the primary.”
Wagoner’s biggest message, he said, is that he has a proven track record creating stable jobs in Cook Inlet through oil and gas development.
“A lot of my focus has been a local focus, on the tax structure of Cook Inlet, and one of the first bills I passed was helping to keep platforms operating that were marginal,” Wagoner said. “This work is going to not only help the Kenai and Soldotna area, but also Anchor Point and Homer.”
But when it comes to home turf and getting energy to consumers who need it most, Micciche is critical of Wagoner.
“My opponent has had 10 years to deal with these issues and he has been counterproductive to bringing natural gas to areas where they didn’t have it,” Micciche said.
A “stampede” in the inlet also invites concern for a sensitive environment, where beluga whales are listed as endangered and other signs of stress are occurring, he said.
“The environment has to come first, the quality of life will be compromised. If we end up really wealthy but give up the Alaska we know, that’s not something we want to take part in,” Micciche said.
The Alaska Public Offices Commission lists the spending as of Aug. 2:
House District 30
- Incumbent Paul Seaton
- Raised $17,823 to date
- Expenditures: $9,831.92
- Cash on hand: $7,756
- Seaton’s political campaign donations come from a broad cross section of individual donors giving from $25 to $500. He has two political action committees focusing on his campaign, Alaska Realtors PAC and the Alaska Gaming Commission PAC.
- Jon Faulkner
- Raised $16,518.26
- Expenditures: $16,237.93
- Cash on hand: $280
- Much of Faulkner’s campaign chest comes from a broad assortment of individuals, with multiple personal loans to the campaign from his own funds. Among his backers are ConocoPhillips Employee PAC and John Shively, the chief executive officer of the Pebble Project. He also is backed by the Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association PAC.
- Liz Diament
- Raised $3,079
- Expenditures: $772.14
- Cash on hand: $2,307
- Diament’s funding comes from individuals and District 30 Democrats.
Senate District O
- Incumbent Republican Tom Wagoner
- Income: $11,400
- Expenditures: $19,055.26
- Cash on hand: $9,830.66
- Sen. Wagoner raised the majority of his money this period through individual donations, including from restaurant owners, Realtors and fishermen. Two political action committees donated to his campaign, Alaska Sea Pilots and Alaska Crab Coalition.
- Republican challenger Peter Micciche
- Income: $28,136.69
- Expenditures: $14,283.25
- Cash on hand: $13,853.44
- Nearly a third of the money raised by Micciche, who is serving his second term as Soldotna’s mayor, came through $10,000 in personal loans he made to his campaign committee. He raised $18,000, about $8,000 more than Wagoner. Other sources of income include individual donations from commercial property managers or owners, restaurant employees, fish processors and other community members. The ConocoPhillips Employee PAC gave him $500.