The Senate District E race is not likely to tip the balance in the legislature, but it’s outcome could shed some light how Matanuska Valley area voters see their future.Republican Senator Charlie Huggins, who is not a member of the Senate bi-partisan working group, has two terms in the legislature behind him, serving last year as Senate Minority Leader. Susan Parsons Herman says she worked for the Democratic party for years, until raising her children took her away from politics. Now she’s back, and Herman says she’s running because of her passions.. education, and health. She thinks the state could do a better job at funding both.
“I certainly support Obama-care. I’m a recent cancer survivor myself, and it’s critical that we all get affordable health care. No one should be told to go home and die,” Herman says. But Huggins can point to how the state has improved health care in his district.
“We just built a new health clinic in Willow, the state in cooperation with some private agencies, so that people could go in their local community to an affordable health care service. Quite successful, I’m proud of that. In addition, we participated and supported a new Native health treatment facility that just opened in Wasilla. I’m proud of that. So we are making that difference. Are there other things that should be done? Yes. Do I support Obama-care? No,” Huggins says.
The issues in the Valley are the economy, education and health, much like the issues facing the rest of the country. And the two candidates reflect pretty much the same Republican – Democratic standoff on how solutions could be found. Like the state budget, for instance. Herman says she’ll take a stand against proposed tax breaks for the oil companies
“Oil has certainly funded our state for years and years, but we need to get away from that. We need to diversify our economic base. I want to make sure that whatever tax breaks are given to the big oil companies, that they promise to give us throughput for that. I’m against the big oil tax giveaway. We need that money to fund our state, and our programs. ” Herman says.
Huggins says getting jobs moving depends on encouraging more oil development
“We have to address investment and decline in oil production. Ninety percent of our revenue comes from oil. We have to monetize our gas and build a gas pipeline in one form or another for export, but most importantly, for the use of the people ofAlaska. And, we’re going to have to get the operating budget under control,” Huggins says.
And Huggins would like to see large resource development projects move ahead.
Herman wants jobs closer to home, to keep Valley residents from having to commute.
Both candidates agree on the Knik Arm Bridge. As a former KABATA board member, Huggins says the state should pay into some of it’s costs. Herman says KABATA would benefit the Valley by providing an industrial development area at Port MacKenzie. Both have three children, two of Huggins’ children are in the military, facing deployment to Afghanistan. Two of Herman’s children left the state after college, she says because there were no job opportunities at home. Herman says the state should spend more on education, to reduce the high school dropout rate.
“We need to hire more teachers and more teacher aides. We need to put more money into the schools. I think if we can promote teachers, teachers aides, even volunteers into the classroom, we can get those numbers down and maybe even eliminate that drop out rate, ” Herman says.
Huggins says more vocational training would better prepare young people for the job market.
“It has to be relevant, and prepares them potentially for a vocation going forward to make a living. Most of our young people in the Valley quite frankly are doers with their hands,” Huggins says.
Campaign funding could affect the outcome of the race. Huggins started the campaign with more than 38 thousand dollars, and still has about that much in the campaign chest. Herman started her campaign with 2 thousand dollars, mostly garnered in small amount from retirees, and is just about that much in the red at this time. [friday Oct. 26]