A three-way race for the House of Representatives District 8 seat will be settled on Nov. 6 when Libertarian Mark Fish, Democratic nominee James Chesbro and current Rep. Mark Neuman, a Republican, battle for the spot.
Chesbro defeated Fish in the Democratic Primary, receiving more than twice the votes. Fish opted to stay in the hunt for the seat as the Libertarian Party candidate.
“It came to a point where I needed to step forward and actually run for this office. I am looking at it as I don’t really like the direction we’re going either, and that I think we’ve just about cut us to the bone and there’s really no place else to cut. We need to start looking at how we can generate revenues to fortify the positions and the services that the state provides,” Chesbro said.
Chesbro graduated from Palmer High and has worked for the Municipality of Anchorage’s Parks and Recreation division for 27 years, with a strong background in maintenance.
“Crime and budget, yeah they probably are the most important things in our district. Our roads definitely are very important to us,” Chesbro said.
Chesbro advocates for strong pre-kindergarten education and sees a strong educational system as the key to Alaska’s future.
“The expenses for students here are just astronomical. How are you guys going to pay this money back? I will never know,” Chesbro said at the Mat-Su College Debate. “We need to work on trying to make education affordable.”
Chesbro is concerned with friends and neighbors who are suffering accidents on the Valley’s crowded streets.
“(Knik-Goose Bay Road) since 2009 has been a safety corridor, and it hasn’t gotten any safer. It’s just gotten more dangerous. I don’t know if it’s been put on the backlogs or what the situation is with that exactly, you have to be behind the doors in order to see what’s actually going on with this and that’s one of my biggest issues,” Chesbro said.
Chesbro stressed the need to support a diverse economy that can break away from the dependence on the price of oil.
“I know we probably all love oil because that pays our check, but eventually we’re going to have to start looking at other alternatives to oil as our sole source of finance and sole source of energy and start looking at ways of preserving our environment,” Chesbro said. “I think it's the biggest part of reason we all are here in Alaska is because of the beautiful environment we’re in and the joy and beauty it provides us and the economy that provides us. It’s resources developed responsibly, it’s something we can really look to in our future, providing us jobs and income. But we need to take care of our environment.”
Fish takes strong stances on taxes and the PFD as he believes a sense of limited government and independence is slipping away.
“I understand our past and I have a vision of where we could go in the future, and I know we’re a resource development state and it’s always going to be,” Fish said. “We’ve got to find a better balance and I think I can join these fine people here in talking with them rationally and making a better path forward for all of us.”
Fish served 20 years in the National Guard and has served on a variety of government boards and bodies since. Fish was president of the Airport Heights Community Council, a commissioner on the Alaska State Commission on Human Rights, an a Commissioner and Chair, Citizens Advisory Commission on Federal Areas.
“In order to grow our economy there’s only three things that have to happen: you have to have labor, capital, and natural resources. The state of Alaska can help by allowing the exploitation of those natural resources and creating the conditions that make companies like Amazon want to come here,” Fish said.
Fish supports a constitutional amendment preserving the original PFD formula, a constitutional amendment to stop deficit spending and no taxation without a vote of the people.
“People are afraid to leave their homes for commerce and enjoyment of their liberties. This certainly has to be curtailed. The big question is how do we do that, and how do we do that efficiently. I think locally, there’s things that we can do. Citizens have to step up and participate a little more in their own security,” Fish said. “There’s no amount of state troopers that can keep us safe in our own homes.”
Fish does not plan to join a caucus, but is confident he can work with all parties involved. Fish had some strong words for the state of education on the Mat-Su College campus.
“I do believe our education system is broken. One of the reasons is, we’ve concentrated on University educations and neglected our primary system of education, which basically is our constitutional mandate to provide these schools for the children of Alaska. I think the resources need to be spent on primary education and have the University system use the resources that were allocated it and become self sustaining and self funding without assistance from the state eventually,” Fish said.
Neuman has served in the House for 14 years. He received nearly three times as many votes as Andy Murr in the Primary, and faces off against Fish and Chesbro to retain his seat. Neuman has served as the crucial Vice-Chair of the Finance Committee since 2011, and is also the chair of Finance subcommittees Transportation and Public Facilities and Health and Social Services.
“I can tell you that I think this is probably the best job in the world,” Neuman said.
Neuman graduated from Mat-Su College in 1989 with a degree in refrigeration and says that skills he learned at MSC have been vital in life and as a legislator.
Neuman owns a woodworking business and is an avid outdoorsman. He is a member of the Cook Inlet Salmon Taskforce.
“I tend to fall back on why our state became a state, and using our resources and turning those resources into jobs,” Neuman said. “You’re going to hear philosophies where they want to use your PFD, I think that’s a terrible thing to do to our economy, particularly when our economy is in the situation that we’re in. We’re in the worst economy in the nation right now, quite frankly, and I think that that has a devastating effect the way it has in the last few years.”
Neuman took a strong stance on crime and SB91 at the Mat-Su College debate. He says that treatment options are not as available as they should be. Neuman said that most of the information he relies on to legislate crime, he gets from the law enforcement officers themselves.
“That’s who I learn the most from. When that reality hits them is when you have to have treatment available and that hasn’t happened,” Neuman said. They didn’t used to have treatment after arrests until 91. When we were able to make that happen, you have to have the treatment out there for people when you’re arresting them.”
Neuman believes that government has grown too large and that to diversify the economy, the state should fall back on natural resources.
“Why do we continue to take all of Alaska’s resources, harvest them from this state, add thousands of miles of transportation cost so someone else can make an economy and jobs? Too much government. Too much government. If we can get that done we can take care of crime and budget and roads all at once,” Neuman said.
Neuman stated that a healthy Alaskan economy would help to improve Alaskan’s physical health.
“The problems that we have today are because we have not diversified our economy,” Neuman said. “We need to get away from that. We need to diversify the economy and create these jobs so that you have an opportunity to build a future in Alaska.”