Democratic and Republican candidates vying to be Alaska's next lieutenant governor made their case for the job before members of the state's business community at an Anchorage Chamber of Commerce election forum Monday.
Although the candidates disagreed on many topics during the chamber's Make It Monday event at the Dena'ina Center, they all share confidence that they are the right person for the job right now.
Fighting to secure state government's second-highest position, the two Republican and two Democratic candidates were asked questions about what they would do from that office to make the state successful.
On the education front, candidates gave their thoughts on what benchmarks should be used to get graduation and attendance rates up to 90 percent. The Democratic candidates -- Bob Williams, a former Alaska teacher of the year, and state Sen. Hollis French -- talked about outside factors playing a role.
"In my view, student attendance is not driven by academic benchmarks, student attendance is driven by social factors like drug use in students or their parents," French said.
"If you look at schools that have zero to 10 percent (of students receiving) free or reduced lunch, we are one of the highest-performing countries in the world," Williams said. "If you look at 75 to 100 percent, we are one of the lowest-performing, so we got to address poverty."
Their Republican opponents, state Sen. Lesil McGuire and Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, said a different approach should be taken to gauge a schools' success.
"Most of the discussion at this so-called education session was about how much do we increase the (base student allocation) or do we put money outside the BSA, and not enough discussion about student performance," Sullivan said.
"I don't know that they will be successful, but we do know that what we have been doing so far has not measured accurately the student performance," McGuire said.
Both side also took on the performance of the state's oil taxes under Gov. Sean Parnell's Senate Bill 21, which passed the Legislature last year. Candidates split along party lines when they were asked if they supported the proposed repeal of SB21, which a ballot initiative will put before primary voters in August after critics say it has given away millions in state money.
McGuire says she opposes it, because the new system is helping to grow oil profits.
"If we don't continue forward with a consistent fiscal system and the message that it sends, and the competitiveness of it, Alaska is in big trouble," McGuire said.
Sullivan opposes the repeal because he says independent producers' interest in Alaska show that the current bill is working better than Alaska's Clear and Equitable Share, the state's previous oil tax regime.
"I see the future of the North Slope as very very bright given the current tax incentives," Sullivan said. "And going forward I think it's the right move -- ACES did nothing to stop the decline of production."
Williams supports the repeal, saying he doesn't see the evidence it's working.
"I like what Republican (state Sen.) Bert Stedman said on February 21st, he makes a very compelling case that currently we are taxing far below North Dakota but that's something we are always compared with," Williams said.
French also supports the repeal saying the bill is making Alaska impoverish itself.
"By passing SB21 we pushed $8.5 billion across the table to the oil industry and its not going to result in $8.5 billion more coming down the pipeline," French said.
The independent candidate for lieutenant governor, Craig Fleener, was not at the forum because he was in the Lower 48 for National Guard training.