Two political newcomers – and friends – are vying for the Republican nomination for House District 21 this month – Anand Dubey and Matt Fagnani. They met in 2012 when Dubey lost to Lindsay Holmes in the old District 19. Fagnani says he decided to run against his friend because he’s more in tune with Alaska, but Dubey says he offers innovations the legislature needs.
Watching Dubey and Fagnani in the KAKM studios, it’s clear they are comfortable together. They joke around and listen to each other.
“It’s been fun,” Fagnani says, smiling. “We see each other as we’re walking the neighborhood.”
But the messages they are delivering are quite different.
Dubey is pushing his background in technology. He ran the state’s Enterprise Technology Services for four years. Now he’s self-employed as an IT consultant and helps small businesses glean information from their data. He says his understanding of emerging technologies will help him pare down the budget and consolidate government services.
“So I think I’m the missing link. I think more and more as technology becomes prevalent, you’ll need guys like me in the legislative seat who understand business, understand technology, who are actual citizens. I call myself a big nobody.”
Fagnani promotes himself as a more conventional candidate. He’s lived and worked in Alaska for 30 years doing everything from running a halfway house in Bethel to managing a work safety and drug testing program for NANA. He was later the Vice President of Business Development for the Pebble Partnership.
“I’m an honest guy,” he states. “I’ve been able to turn difficult opportunities and turn them into profitable opportunities for the employers that I’ve worked for.”
And Fagnani says he sees great opportunities in the state for resource development, especially if some things change.
“So guiding resource development — I think you have to look at the permitting process. Why should it take 10 years for a project to come into permitting? I’d like to see if we could reduce that time,” he says. “We haven’t been able to so far. But as a guy with a business background, an entrepenur. I think I would look at this with a different set of eyes. I think we need to look at how do we maximize resource development in rural Alaska. That is what brings infrastructure to rural Alaska.”
Fagnani also supports the state’s current megaprojects, like the Wantana Susitna Dam and he supports pursuing both ideas to get natural gas off the North Slope — the LNG Project and the Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline.
“Alaskans benefit greatly in that opportunity with either project. So I would support either project because I think it’s the right thing to do to bring our resource back or bring our resource into the market.”
Dubey, on the other hand, is more skeptical. He says he’s heard about the gasline since arriving in Alaska 15 years ago, but it still hasn’t been built. He calls the Knik Arm Bridge a great idea but says the execution of it has been a boondoggle.
“So whenever I see government undertaking these megaprojects, a part of me is like, the chances of a government agency succeeding? Their records are not perfect.”
Dubey says the economic growth of Alaska will depend on ideas from the entire community, not just the legislature.
“I think it’s the role of the government really to sort of just keep us out of trouble, but ultimately innovation, forward thinking, new thought, needs to all come from the people themselves. When was the last time the government did something fundamentally unique?”
So why is Dubey running for office? He says it’s to guard and change government from within. He says he also wants to try to put an end to partisan politics and help legislators listen to and understand each other’s ideas.
“You know, don’t vote for me because I’m a Republican. Don’t vote for me because you think I’m a conservative or I’m a liberal. Vote for me because of what I bring to the table.”
As for Fagnani, he says he brings to the table experience with business and non-profit boards, and optimism.
“I mean I look at problems and I see solutions, I don’t see problems. I look at opportunities and I see a new opportunity and then another opportunity. I don’t get discouraged very well.”
And so he’s not discouraged when he sees his friend walking through the neighborhoods, trying to round up votes, just like him.