Republican candidates for governor meet in Juneau

Former Sen. Mike Dunleavy, business owner Scott Hawkins, handyman Michael Sheldon, Rep. Mike Chenault, moderator Murray Walsh, Air Force veteran Stephen Wright, former Rep. Lynn Gattis, Sen. Kevin Meyer, and retired Alaska National Guard Col. Edie Grunwald attend a candidate forum Jan. 26, 2018. (Photo by Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO)

The four Republican candidates for Alaska governor each said Friday why they think voters should elect them.

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They met for the first candidate forum in Southeast Alaska, at T.K. Maguire’s restaurant in downtown Juneau.

Former House Speaker Mike Chenault of Nikiski said his experience with both the Legislature and in the construction industry have prepared him to be governor.

“I’ve got the leadership background, in knowing how the Legislature works – and how it should work with the governor,” Chenault said. “I also have a business background. I come from a family business for 35 years, and know how to employ people.”

Former Wasilla Sen. Mike Dunleavy criticized Gov. Bill Walker, a former Republican who is an independent.

“Have the last three years been the best years in the history of the state? Absolutely not,” Dunleavy said. “We have so much to look forward to, we have so many opportunities, we can be developing so many of our resources, and get ourselves out of this fiscal mix.”

Anchorage business owner Scott Hawkins is making his first run for office. He said he would have three priorities as governor.

“One’s arresting the crime wave. Two is getting our fiscal house in order, which includes getting the dividend back to a formula-driven program,” Hawkins said. “And, three, turning this economy around.”

Petersburg handyman Michael Sheldon also hasn’t run for office before. He laid out a hard line on abortion.

“I’m an old-school Republican,” Sheldon said. “I may be the new kid on the block, but I remember the days of old. I want to stop abortion in Alaska. We’re killing 1,500 babies a year in Alaska and that’s got to stop. If I have to take executive action the first day of office, I’ll do so. If I get in trouble for doing that, that’s just fine.”

Four of the five Republicans running for lieutenant governor also spoke.

They include Anchorage Sen. Kevin Meyer, former Wasilla Rep. Lynn Gattis, former Alaska National Guard Col. Edie Grunwald of Palmer and Wasilla resident Stephen Wright, an Air Force veteran.

All of the attendees criticized Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott’s oversight of the House District 40 Democratic primary in 2016.

Kodiak Sen. Gary Stevens also is running for lieutenant governor, but didn’t attend. He cited a legislative ethics rule that lawmakers can’t use state-funded travel to attend political events. He said that includes the forum, since the state paid for him to fly to Juneau for the legislative session.

The Capital City Republican Women hosted the event.