There’s only one contested legislative primary-election race that Fairbanks-area voters will weigh-in on this coming Tuesday. That’s the House District 1 seat left vacant by Rep. Scott Kawasaki’s decision to challenge incumbent Sen. Pete Kelly to represent state Senate District A. The matchup features two candidates with very different campaign pitches.
Bart LeBon’s campaign is based on a set of fairly typical conservative Republican issues that include deregulation and increased development of Alaska’s resources.
“Oil, gas, timber, whatever it might be – one of my responsibilities if elected would be to take a look at the regulatory environment for these industries that are producing our wealth, and make sure that is fair and that it’s properly placed for the industries,” LeBon said in a recent interview.
But the 66-year-old retired banker says his top priority would be to help put together a fiscal plan for the state that would encourage more oil and gas production while diversifying Alaska’s economy to lessen its reliance on the industry. Lebon says the plan should eliminate the annual ritual of extending legislative sessions long enough to allow lawmakers to pass capital and operating budgets.
“Right now, our fiscal plan is non-existent,” he said, “and our business model is broken.”
Lebon’s opponent, Wolfgang Falke, also has a few ideas on how to get lawmakers to finish the job in a 90-day session. They include not paying legislators, except for expenses incurred during the regular session.
“You’re not going to get paid any salary or any pension claim or anything!” he said. “You’re not supposed to get paid a nickel! Go down there (to Juneau), do your business, and get back here and do your job!”
- Bart Lebon
Falke also proposes a harsh remedy for what he says are hordes of people coming to Alaska to live off food stamps and collect Permanent Fund dividends. He says he’d tax them, heavily.
“The people that are coming here to Fairbanks and to Alaska are basically people who say ‘Well, the dividends are good, and the welfare payments are better,’” he said. “So they bring their kids and their families up here, and they produce barely nothing!”
It’s hard to say where in the Republican political spectrum the 80-year-old retired truck driver and German immigrant would fall. Falke talks a lot about protecting Alaskan “sovereignty” from threats like socialized health care, which he says a communist plot. He says he’d fight President Trump’s federal overreach into the state’s authority to manage elections and enforce laws.
“He likes to control elections on a national level,” he said. “And, he’d like to establish a national police force under the mask of homeland security.”
LeBon says the “sound fiscal plan” that he promotes would help fund state government through a percent-of-market-value approach to using the Permanent Fund’s Earnings Reserve. He says he’d “enhance” the state’s mining and military economic sector look for more budget cuts. Except, says the former school board member, education funding, especially for the universities.
“I think we’ve probably cut as much as is reasonable over the past several years the university has been trimmed back,” he said.
On the other side of the ledger, LeBon says if elected he’d rather generate more revenue by diversifying and enhancing the state resource-extractive industries than consider any sort of statewide income or sales tax. But he says if lawmakers did enact a tax, it must be levied fairly.
“If we are paying that kind of tax – which I’m not supporting, but if we are – it should touch everybody in some manner, so that it’s a true broad-based tax,” he said.
Democratic House District 1 candidate Kathryn Dodge will face the winner of Tuesday’s Republican primary in the November 6th general election.