Five Democrats Vie For Chance to Run Against Don Young

Next Tuesday 5 Democrats are running against each other, hoping to garner the most primary votes to be able to challenge Republican Don Young for Alaska’s lone seat in the U.S. House. Eagle River resident Doug Urquidi is an electrician. He’s lived in Alaska for 25 years. He wants money put into public infrastructure projects and as an Army veteran, he says he would work to help vets get better access to health care. He also thinks improving law enforcement in rural Alaska should start by asking elders what’s needed. He feels the federal government turns too much to the state.

Sharon Cissna lives in Anchorage and has been a state representative for 14 years. She decided to run for Congress after feeling assaulted by TSA agents in Seattle, but she says her main concern is the well being of every Alaskan. All of the democrats running agree that the climate is changing and Cissna says if she’s elected, she’ll help Alaska prepare for changes in the Arctic, like less sea ice and increased international traffic.

Fairbanks resident Debra Chesnut is a lifelong Alaskan. As a Registered Nurse, she has traveled all across the state delivering health care to rural communities. She says villages need economic growth and she believes one of the ways to do that is to support using federal dollars to help build the road to Nome.

Frank Vondersaar has run numerous times for office and has lived in Alaska for 34 years. The Homer resident is an Air Force veteran. He is a lawyer and an engineer. He says he is pro jobs, pro choice and anti fascist. He is against the Paul Ryan Republican proposal to turn medicare into a voucher system.

Matt Moore runs a medical consultation business in Anchorage and has lived in Alaska for 25 years. He has a degree in geology and believes Alaska can be a leader in Arctic exploration and responsible development. On the issue of social security and whether or not the eligibility age should be raised, he says not now.

All of the candidates support gun ownership rights. They all support federal money for public schools and individuals paying the cost if they choose private or charter school education. And when it comes to opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Anchorage Journalist Michael Carey got answers from them all. Cissna and Chesnut say no. Moore, Vondasaar and Urquidi said yes.

Next Tuesday is the primary. You can hear much more from all of the candidates this evening on Debate for the State offered statewide. Check your local public broadcasting station for the schedule.


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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 24 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori