Incumbent Eric Feige is a two term House legislator, running, in his words, as a “common sense conservative”. Feige is a former military man, professional pilot and business owner, and he says the small communities in his district depend on the highways that criss cross it.
House District 9 runs the length of the Richardson Highway Valdez to Delta , with quick sweep West on the Glenn Highway to grab the Matanuska Valley communities of Sutton and Chickaloon. Those two communities are at the heart of a local dispute over natural resource development. Feige says transportation issues characterize the district.
“District 9 offers great highways. All the goods and services that come through Canada going either to Fairbanks or to Anchorage come through the highways, that need to be maintained well.”
He says the small businesses along the road system could be helped by a state wide advertising campaign to lure more tourists to the region. Feige serves on the House Transportation committee and co-chairs the House Resources committee. He says, how the state will bring affordable energy to rural areas will dominate the next legislature
“There’s a couple of things the state can do. One, is we can get out of the way of responsible development and responsible development of those energy resources. We can support it with state grant funds as we have done with the Allison Creek project in Valdez, which will allow Copper Valley Electric to lower their electrical rates significantly once that project comes into production. And we can make sure that a gas pipeline moves forward.”
The incumbent says changes he helped craft in state statutes has enabled Ahtna Corporation to engage in local natural gas exploration, which could provide regional energy needs, if successful.
But Borough Assemblyman Jim Colver, and Sutton businessman George Rauscher, both would like to upset Feige.
George Rauscher came close to beating Feige in the 2012 primary. Rauscher gained almost 47 percent of the vote at that time. Rauscher is a civil engineer. He served as chair of the Sutton Community Council and has sat on boards as diverse as that of the Alpine Historical Park and the Samaritans’ Purse International mission board. Rauscher says his main concerns are jobs and the cost of energy.
“Well, I agree about the Allison project. I believe that’s one way we can help bring the cost down to that area along the Richardson Highway. We’ve got gas being drilled right now in the Glennallen area. We’re hoping that when the pipeline gets started up we’ll be able to bring that cost to the people and lower it somehow.”
Rauscher says he’s concerned about the survival of small businesses in the district
“Business right now are having to struggle. Government’s right now is not working with them, it is working against them. Tourism is on a decline somewhat. The area could use an influx, it could use some advertising, it needs a better chance, because if you look at some of the motels, if you look at the areas, Valdez and Delta, where they rely on toursim, it’s not there. And as a government we could probably help them out in that respect when they’re advertising the area.”
Borough Assemblyman Jim Colver has similar concerns about local economies
“We’re being too hard on our businesses. So we’ve got to cut some of this red tape. These roadside business, the lodges and whatnot, they are suffering from over-regulation of DEC and DNR. They can’t put business signs out for DOT regulations, or get a driveway. We simply got to cut the regulations, cut the red tape, and let our private sector prosper.”
Colver has been stumping hard in Feige’s district this summer, shaking hands at Delta Junction fairs, and visiting Valdez voters. He says the district’s importance to the state has been downplayed. It serves national defense at Fort Greely, and the TAPS terminal in Valdez
“Ten percent of America’s oil runs through the district. …it has a strategic port to deliver our oil, it’s the engine for our economy on the whole West Coast.”
The TAPS line runs along the Richardson to Valdez, but it is not certain that a future Alaska Gasline will. And Colver has made it a point to attack Feige’s record on bringing natural gas to Matanuska Valley communities.
“The incumbent hasn’t delivered on cheaper energy. Two gaslines have been approved by the legislature that went through his committee, without anything in there for his district. All these billions are being spent on these energy projects, and the Richardson Highway communities have been left behind.”
Feige, in his turn, has published Colver’s record of campaign donations to Democratic candidates over the past several years, while insinuating that Colver could be a closet Dem wearing Republican clothing. And Feige points out that Colver has reaped thousands of dollars in union PAC contributions for his campaign, about 24 thousand dollars so far, raising the question of payback.
Colver has spent almost 54 thousand dollars on his race thus far. Feige has spent a little over 20 thousand dollars as of this week. Rauscher ‘s meager campaign chest had about 500 dollars in it at last glance. He’ running a bare bones effort, noting expenditures of as little as 5 dollars for food, as he self propels his campaign up the highway.