ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — Sometimes the issues in a campaign are expressed in the town halls held by the candidates.
That’s no less true this year.
Last week, Democrat Mark Begich held a town hall at the Mountain View Community Center. Not many people showed up, but those who did talked about homelessness and crime.
The next night, Republican Mike Dunleavy held a town hall on crime at the Loussac Library. About 100 people showed up, and some of them delivered an earful.
This week, Gov. Bill Walker held a town hall, and the questions directed at him matched his polling. Crime was there, but the main issues were the economy, jobs and healthcare.
One woman told Begich that schoolchildren were frightened by encounters with disoriented-looking homeless people camped by their school. “It was very scary,” the woman said. “It would be scary for an adult.”
Another woman complained to Begich about the Justin Schneider case — the man sentenced to no jail time after he choked a woman to unconsciousness and then masturbated over her.
“What are your thoughts about looking through legislation and figuring out how we can fill those holes?” the woman asked Begich.
“That’s a clear loophole in the law that needs to be fixed,” Begich said. Then he expanded his answer to talk about how some minorities make up a disproportionate percentage of the prison population.
The tone for Dunleavy’s town hall was set by an emcee, radio talk-show host Rick Rydell.
“I’ve lived in Alaska since I was a teenager,” Rydell said. “I’ve never seen it as bad as it is right now. I think everyone in the room can say that same thing.”
Fear was the driver of much of the discussion. Said one man: “I do not go check my mail without my firearm on my side. I got concealed carry, I carry every single day.”
The same man offered advice to the audience about how to comply with Alaska’s self-defense laws if someone gets shot.
“If I shoot somebody trying to steal my vehicle, I’m going to make sure I tell the cop I feared for my life 'cause he was trying to run me over with my own vehicle, because that’s what I have to do, that’s the legal aspect of it.”
The questions to Walker focused on the state’s economy and AKLNG, the big liquefied natural gas-line project.
“Governor Walker, I’m really excited about what’s happening with LNG and so forth, but I also want to look at expanding our base here in Alaska,” one woman said.
A man wanted to know if Walker would be responsive to the Legislature on the gas line.
“One of the concerns that several legislators had expressed, they weren’t getting enough information from the administration or kept in the dark about some things,” the man said. "So my question is, are you on record or would you go on record not to sign any primal agreement with China on this pipeline deal unless there’s support from the Legislature?"
Walker responded, “The system we have in place, we have to go back to the Legislature to do that. We’ve had a number of meetings with legislators, invited some to go with us on our last trip to China,” Walker said. “When we signed the joint development agreement, many said we should just make that confidential. I said, ‘No no no, don’t make that confidential, make that public.’ People need to know what we’re doing.”