ELECTION 2018: State senate candidates make their case

Tuesday, July 24, 2018 - 13:32
  • Lora Reinbold, Republican
  • Dan Saddler, Republican
  • Oliver Schiess, Democrat

Alaska’s primary elections will be held Aug. 21, with polls open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. This year’s Republican primary candidates are Lora Reinbold and Dan Saddler. The Democratic primary has one candidate, Oliver Schiess.

The winner of the two primaries will face each other in the Nov. 6 general election to serve in the seat being vacated by Sen. Anna MacKinnon, who is retiring from the Legislature.

The Star asked several questions of the candidates in advance of this year’s primary election. Here are their answers:

Senate District G

Republican Primary Candidates

Lora Reinbold

Age: 54

Place of birth: Fairbanks

Hometown: Eagle River

Occupation: Legislator

Family: I will be married to my husband Eric who is an engineer for 30 years this year. We have Two sons Zach & Rydell both engineers ages 23 & 24. Rydell is married to an elementary teacher Kyla Reinbold. (in addition I have a very well established, large extended family that are very successful and productive citizens in Alaska).

Previous public office held (if any): I have been on numerous committees. Homeowners associations, community council positions, parks and rec board, I have served on GOP committees, and served on the resources transition team for Gov Parnell. I have been appointed as Co Chair of the Eagle River Trails Committee where we successfully built many trails in Eagle River and worked on the historic Iditarod trail. To see my extensive list of community involvement go to my website ReinboldforAlaska.com

What qualities make you the best candidate for the office you seek?

I have served with integrity in the State House for almost six years. I take the principles of the Republican Platform, the promises I make to constituents and my oath to uphold and defend the constitution very seriously. During my service in the legislature I have fought to defend parental rights, students privacy rights and against Common Core. I prime sponsored legislation: the Regulation Impact Transparency Act to help reduce government red tape which passed almost unanimously. The bill brought transparency to the regulation process by requiring the government to show fiscal impacts to the government, municipalities and the private sector of regulations. As Chair of the Joint Armed services committee I prime sponsored a resolution to not downsize our military in Alaska and supported efforts to get the F-22’s to Alaska. As a fiscal conservative I hosted “Expose Big Government” a successful symposium showing where to responsibly cut the budget. I have voted NO four years in a row on unsustainable bloated operating budgets, regardless of the unnecessary harsh caucus punishment. To keep Alaskans engaged, I wrote several OpEd’s exposing games played with the budget, the Dangers Lurking in SB91 and Why the government should not take the PFD.

What is the most important issue currently facing Alaska and how would you address the issue in the Legislature?

Public Safety is government’s most important mandate. I passionately voted NO on SB91. However, with the passage of SB91 we have some of the softest on crime laws in the nation. Alaska is facing a crime epidemic and the private sector is paying a big penalty for passing such dangerous legislation. Vehicles are getting taken at unprecedented numbers. As a key member of the Judiciary committee I worked on bills that reversed some of the negative impacts of SB91 and was the prime sponsor of an amendment to allow jail time that had been eliminated in SB91 for first time C felony such as car theft and theft of a firearm. One of the main reasons I want to serve in the Senate, is to continue to fight for tougher criminal law so law enforcement has the tools to help reverse the crime epidemic. We need tougher criminal laws passed in Alaska that will hold criminals accountable & we must keep the victims at the center of all justice reform. Eagle River, Chugiak, and JBER deserve a hard working honest representative who will not abandon their values and governments most important mandate, public safety, while serving in the legislature.

What (if anything) should be done to help improve the Alaska economy?

We are a resource development state that is heavily dependent on this industry for a strong economy. The government needs to help maintain and build good infrastructure including build roads to key resources. The state needs to keep a fair and stable tax structure in place to attract private sector investment and work with industry to be responsible & solve issues that may arise. Alaska needs to stay competitive and supportive to grow and diversify our economy.

Do you agree with the Legislature’s decision to cap this year’s Permanent Fund Dividend at $1,600 and use a portion of the Alaska Permanent Fund’s investment earnings for government services? Why or why not?

I do not support the reduction of the PFD and have voted against any legislation that reduces the PFD. Legislators have a statutory obligation to pay the PFD that has worked for decades and keeps the permanent fund strong. Our budgets reflect spending about three times the national average per ca-pita -Alaska’s budgets are bloated and unsustainable- the Operating budget alone was over 10 billion this year! Hundreds of millions are spent on travel, I sponsored amendment to reduce travel fraud and the Democrats voted against it. Our medicaid budget is unsustainable approaching 3.5 Billion annually. The state spends about 3 million on “specialty memberships” a year. An amendment I sponsored passed in the House to eliminate this luxury yet the Senate put it back in the budget. It is wrong to take the PFD from Alaskans when the state budgets are bloated. Alaskans can spend the PFD more wisely than the government. Alaskans often spend the PFD on important things like college education and stimulating their local economy. I have voted to protect the PFD and the permanent fund and voted NO on SB 26 that gave Big government keys to our most important savings account

Dan Saddler

Age: 57

Place of birth: Elyria, Ohio

Hometown: Eagle River

Occupation: formerly journalist, now state legislator

Family: Married 26 years to Chris, four children, two granddaughters

Previous public office held (if any): Alaska State Representative, 2011-now

What qualities make you the best candidate for the office you seek?

I believe my temperament, experience, skills and values make me the best candidate to serve Chugiak-Eagle River in the state Senate. I have an ability to listen respectfully to others, even those with whom I disagree, and to remain calm and focused on the essential task at hand at all times. I have had increasingly responsible positions in the executive and legislative branches of state government, giving me the background necessary to identify problems and find Alaska-based solutions. As a former journalist, I have the skills to ask important questions, quickly process information, reach reasonable conclusions, and communicate even complex issues clearly to constituents. As a conservative, I value small government, personal responsibility, and love of country; and as a man of faith, I take confidence knowing my political efforts are most successful when they serve God’s higher purpose. Finally, I have a proven eight-year record of working with others to deliver results for our community in the Alaska Legislature. Taken together, and with all modesty, I believe these qualities make me clearly the better candidate to represent Senate District G.

What is the most important issue currently facing Alaska and how would you address the issue in the Legislature?

Alaska has several big challenges, including crime, high unemployment, the budget deficit, high health-care costs, and more. Which is the most important depends on each person’s own situation. But because Alaska’s economic health affects so many other issues, and because the Legislature’s primary job is to pass a budget, I must say the top issue is state finances and the budget deficit. To address it, we must:

Reduce the size of government, and focus only on essential services – and those things people cannot do for themselves

Encourage discovery and production of new oil, and retain a predictable tax structure to restore confidence that investing in Alaska’s oil patch is good business

Resist the urge to focus on revenue to eliminate the deficit– a deficit is caused as much by too much spending as not enough income

Aggressively audit state departments to identify waste, redundancies or inefficiencies

Resist the urge to hire full-time state workers to meet temporary needs, or to give automatic raises to all

Return to writing state budgets according to the “missions and measures” model: identifying what outcomes government should see for its expenses, and eliminate those functions that don’t return adequate “bang for the buck”

What (if anything) should be done to help improve the Alaska economy?

While increasingly global forces influence Alaska’s economy, there are steps state government can take to help us prosper. First, we should cut the state’s operating budget, to reduce the size and burden of government that the private sector must support. We should avoid the impulse to keep tinkering with oil taxes, which discourages investment leading to new production, and the royalty and tax revenue that Alaskans need. We should actively listen to private business to learn where we can reform overly burdensome regulations that hamper their ability to create jobs and wealth. We must continue efforts begun last session to reduce the costs of worker’s compensation and health care to Alaska business, by finding innovative ways to provide quality care at affordable costs, whether in Alaska or elsewhere. We should focus education and job training on careers with the maximum utility in Alaska. And we must maintain and improve the capital infrastructure — roads, railroads, pipelines, ports, electrical generation and transmission grids etc. — to provide reliable, low-cost services necessary to a healthy private sector. In short, government must help lay a stable, efficient and useful foundation on which citizens can build a thriving private economy.

What (if anything) should the Legislature do to reduce crime in Alaska?

Almost every conversation I have in Chugiak-Eagle River quickly turns to crime, and how frustrated, angry and fearful people are that crime seems to go unpunished. Having had our home broken into while I was in Juneau, I understand and share this anger! The Legislature must demonstrate it takes the public’s concerns seriously. One way is to repeal SB 91. That would sweep away its bad elements, like the reclassification of lower-level felonies to misdemeanors, so we could quickly re-enact the good elements, like the 60 additional pre-trial enforcement officers and increased penalties for murder. We could also retain recent fixes to the “catch-and-release” fiasco, so judges can keep any or all suspects in jail before trial, and must consider a suspect’s Lower 48 criminal record. In addition, the Legislature must also budget for more prosecutors and judges, so police are confident that the criminals they arrest will be held accountable for their actions in court. We should also cooperate with federal authorities to stop drugs and drug dealers from infesting Alaska, tighten down on over-prescription of painkillers that can lead to drug addiction, and pursue economic policies that reduce the unemployment that helps give rise to crime.

Do you agree with the Legislature’s decision to cap this year’s Permanent Fund Dividend at $1,600 and use a portion of the Alaska Permanent Fund’s investment earnings for government services? Why or why not?

No, I oppose this decision, and voted against the budget that included the smaller dividend, and against the bill (SB 26) which opened the door to spending dividend money on government. This year I voted “yes” for the bigger PFD, “no” on the amendment reducing it, and “no” on the budget containing a less-than-full PFD. The budget is still too large for government to be able to justify diverting revenue from dividends to government. I believe Alaskans rightfully expect and deserve their full dividends, and that the dividend program plays a very important role in many Alaskans’ lives. In fact, I was the key “no” vote in 2016 that kept a smaller-PFD bill from getting to the House floor. Despite strong pressure from caucus leadership to push it through House Finance Committee, I wouldn’t give in. I believe strongly that the Legislature should not take money from the people to fund excessive government spending.

Democratic Primary Candidate

Name: Oliver Schiess

Age: 38

Place of birth: Seattle, Washington

Hometown: Eagle River

Occupation: I joined the Marines in 1998 and served for 15 years. While in the Marines, I served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. As a Marine, I carried out many roles including Instructor at the Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Quantico, Drill Instructor, Radar Repairman, Maintenance Chief, and different Acquisition and Logistics roles. After my service, I attained a B.S. in mathematics (with honors) and a minor in Education. I am currently employed as a Senior Logistician in support of the Coast Guard Rescue-21 communication system.

Family: I have been blessed with an amazing and healthy family. My wife Natalie and I have been married for 12 years and we have four children, two boys and two girls who I love with all my heart. My children are all involved in the Alaska public education system, my oldest son graduated high school in the spring and my younger three are students at Ravenwood Elementary. My family is a major reason I am running for the state Senate. I will fight to make Alaska a safe and prosperous area, not only for my family but for all Alaskans.

Previous public office held: My public service began with my time in the Marines. During my 15 years serving our country, I acquired skills and qualities which will carry over to my service in the Legislature. After my time in the Marines, I became immersed in local politics, including as the District Chair for House District 14 and a Party Delegate in the 2016 and 2018 Conventions.

My family and I are invested in this community, we have watched the damage done by partisan inaction and reckless legislation from our current representatives. I could no longer sit by and watch as our community’s interests were disregarded. I felt a duty to step up and continue my public service by fighting for the people of Eagle River, Chugiak, JBER, and Centennial Park.

What qualities make you the best candidate for the office you seek?

We desperately need good people in office.

The most important qualities I will bring to Juneau are honor, integrity, and loyalty. I will use my experience in the Marines to break through the partisan gridlock in Juneau and fight to move Alaska forward.

I have the knowledge and experience to properly address the obstacles facing our state and provide strong, long lasting solutions that solve these problems for ourselves and our children.

I am a strong fiscal conservative. I believe responsible government spending is of utmost importance and I will find business-friendly efficiencies to reduce the budget deficit. But unlike our failed incumbents, I understand that further budget cuts to our critical services will not fix the problem but will continue to harm public education, law enforcement, and road maintenance in our communities.

We cannot continue down the same path that Lora Reinbold and Dan Saddler have led us and expect to fix the problems facing Alaska. I will bring new ideas and energy to Juneau and will not allow partisanship, party loyalty, or special interests to interfere in doing what is best for our communities.

What is the most important issue currently facing Alaska and how would you address the issue in the Legislature?

The root cause of Alaska’s problems are tied to our economy and financial crisis. Our partisan incumbent candidates have had their shot and failed. Crime rates are on the rise, our Permanent Fund Reserve is being drained, our roads are crumbling, and our schools and are struggling. In order to address the problems facing Alaska we need new leadership in Juneau!

Alaska’s economy and way of life are heavily reliant upon our natural resource industry. The people of Alaska can no longer be taken advantage of, I will ensure that the state and its residents are paid a fair and equitable amount for OUR resources!

Alaska needs a sustainable and diverse economy that works for ALL Alaskans. I will fight to establish the much needed infrastructure necessary to promote business growth and create new jobs.

As your representative in Juneau, I will represent you with honor. I will strengthen Alaska’s economy, build up our education system, create Alaska jobs, address crime, and repair our roads.

What (if anything) should be done to help improve the Alaska economy?

Our state is home to many of the world’s most skilled and hardworking individuals but in many cases, we do not have the jobs or social incentives to keep them here.

Our state must provide the much-needed stability and resources for our public schools and post-secondary education system, including the University of Alaska, vocational schools, and alternative education programs. A strong education system will keep Alaskans in Alaska and draw the best and brightest from around the globe to our state, who will then stay and contribute to our economy.

Alaska’s economy needs to be expanded and diversified, we should be the home to new and growing industries. Alaska’s Legislature should be working to incentivize new business and industry to invest in our state so we are not reliant upon any one source of revenue. Alaska lawmakers should be working to lift the burden on small businesses and working families, this will result in increased job growth and input into our local economies.

What should the Legislature do to reduce crime in Alaska?

The level of crime in our neighborhoods in unacceptable. Every Alaskan has the right to feel safe in their homes and neighborhoods. I will be a champion of strong public safety for our communities.

Our incumbent candidates have voted foolishly and destructively to cut the budget for our state’s prosecutors and law enforcement. The residents of this district pay extremely high property tax rates, we deserve leaders in Juneau who will ensure that we have the resources necessary to be safe in our communities.

Beyond enforcement, we need to address the cause of rising crime rates which means providing opportunity and education throughout childhood. Studies show that crime rates decrease when we have strong public education, after school programs, and high graduation rates.

Substance abuse and addiction are also key components to our area’s rising crime rates. We must work to prevent drug use in the first place but also treat our friends, family, and neighbors who are struggling with addiction with “firmness, fairness, dignity and compassion.”

There is no single solution to this problem, our lawmakers need to be working together to address crime in a comprehensive approach that focuses on both enforcement and prevention.

Do you agree with the Legislature’s decision to cap this year’s Permanent Fund Dividend at $1,600 and use a portion of the Alaska Permanent Fund’s investment earnings for government services? Why or why not?

In Juneau, I will be a champion of the Permanent Fund and fight to protect it for ALL Alaskans. I am vehemently opposed to the decision made by our Legislature to cap the Permanent Fund and take dollars away from the people of Alaska who rely on it.

I will work in the Legislature to enshrine the PFD into Alaska’s Constitution so that it is secured and not left to the whims of establishment politicians.

If our districts representatives had done their job and fought for the interests of our community, we would not be in this situation to begin with. Alaskans recognize that what our lawmakers are doing now isn’t working.

My opponents in this election intend to continue the same path of assuming budget cuts are the only solution. If elected, I vow to fight to reverse the damage done by our incumbents and focus on creating new revenue and investment in our state.

I urge all residents of Chugiak, Eagle River, Centennial Park, and JBER to vote out the old guard politicians. I am ready to serve, again.

To contact us, volunteer, or donate go to OliverForStateSenate.com

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