PALMER — The Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman hosted a candidate forum in partnership with the Palmer Chamber of Commerce on Saturday at the Palmer Senior Center.

The entire forum can be found at For additional election coverage, visit for candidate questionnaires.

Cassi Campbell from the Palmer Chamber of Commerce moderated the forum. Assembly candidates LaMarr Anderson, Brian Endle, Tim Hale, Ryan Miller and Stephanie Nowers were in attendance. Candidates for Assembly were asked their opinions on previous Assembly votes on a sales tax, Alaska Municipal League membership and response to budget shortfalls, discussed Valley infrastructure and Port Mackenzie and the impacts of crime, tourism, and media in their daily lives. Both groups of candidates were asked to respond to the future of Houston Middle School. The Mat-Su Borough School District School Board candidates answered separate questions following the Assembly candidates. Both candidates running for Seat 2, Jim Hart and current School Board member Ray Michaelson attended the forum. Alma Hartley and current Seat 5 School Board member Ryan Ponder also attended. School Board candidates were asked about school safety, career education, blended learning and the importance of the arts. Each candidate also gave answers to their favorite teacher and favorite book. Both Assembly and School Board candidates were given at least three minutes of concluding remarks at the end of their questioning. Election Day is November 5.


Forum candidates were given a wide variety of topics to show their knowledge and illustrate what they would like to accomplish if elected. Each Assembly candidate said that they would not have voted for a two percent sales tax that had been proposed during Assembly budget deliberations this fall. Candidates offered a wide variety of perspectives on Assembly issues. Candidates were asked if they valued Port Mackenzie as an asset. Each responded that they had high hopes for the Port, but that it was not benefitting the Mat-Su Valley the way that it should. Nowers offered the unique perspective of covering the Port opening as a journalist. LaMarr Anderson answered a question about unrealized economic benefits in the Valley by noting that he would like to see a rail connection more utilized for exportation from the Port. Ryan Miller said that he would not scrap the Port project, and believes that an LNG project could save the port. While candidates were given only 90 seconds to answer questions they had not seen prior the forum, seldom did candidates speak for the entire minute and a half. A question that elicited uncertain responses from many candidates did not baffle Brian Endle. When asked what his proudest votes were, Endle quickly replied that he was proudes to vote for President Trump and Governor Dunleavy. Assembly and School Board candidates were both asked about the future of Houston Middle School, as each body has a unique perspective. The School Board has made their recommendation to the Assembly, and will begin to undertake the School Board recommendation when they reconvene for the first time with new members on November 20. Assembly candidates were asked if they were in favor of investing more in Houston Middle than the district may receive from insurance companies. Tim Hale showed that he had done his homework, detailing each plan that had been set before the School Board. Candidates showed a wide variety of knowledge covering a breadth of Assembly related topics. Endle, Miller, and Hale are all running to take Jim Sykes’ District 1 seat on the Assembly. Anderson and Nowers are running for Matthew Beck’s seat in District 2.


Four of the five school board candidates attended the forum to show their knowledge on education issues. Jeff Taylor, running unopposed for Dr. Donna Dearman’s open seat in District 7. As were the Assembly candidates, School Board candidates were asked about how they consume news and stay informed. With the recommendation for Houston Middle having already passed the School Board, candidates were asked about how they feel Houston could best be served by MSBSD moving forward. Alma Hartley is the mother to students who were in Houston Middle during the November 30 earthquake, and gave her unique perspective. Michaelson said it was the most important issue facing the school district. Candidates were also asked about how the district deals with school safety. Jim Hart said that school safety was the most important issue facing the district. Asked about their involvement and passion for the arts in schools, Ponder was able to recall singing songs with his family from a recent musical they had attended. Each candidate was also able to shed light on their favorite teacher and favorite book. Ponder was selected to serve on the School Board in February and is running against Hartley for the District 5 seat. Michaelson is running for reelection for District 2 against Hart.

Election Day is November 5.

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