WASILLA - The battle for a Senate seat stretching from Wasilla north along the Parks Highway could be key to the fate of the bipartisan coalition in the Senate.
Linda Menard's late husband was mayor of the Mat-Su Borough, and she served a long time on the school board before being elected to the Senate four years ago.
Now, "I believe the choice is someone with experience and an extremely hard worker,” Menard said. “And I know I’ve been called the matriarch of the Valley, one of the matriarchs of the Valley."
But Menard’s participation in a bipartisan caucus has drawn a challenge from fellow Republican Mike Dunleavy, a current school board member, who said the coalition of 10 Democrats and six Republicans is “Democrat-led.”
"Spending keeps going north. If you're an individual that believes in the Second Amendment, you know, the stand-your-ground bills for example were killed in the Senate. If you want infrastructure, for example in the Valley here folks are looking at the bridge, that was killed in the Senate. If you're somebody who's interested in right-to-life issues, that's not going to get past the Senate, because the folks in control don't want those things to happen."
Menard said that joining the coalition was better for the Valley.
"But above all, because of our fastest-growing area in the state of Alaska, I cannot afford -- we need the infrastructure, we need the roads, all the projects when you drove through -- I was part of that. And I was a big part of this bond package we're going to vote on in November. And I just can't be in the corner and in a clear conscience not be bringing things back to this to this Valley, because it's so crucial."
Dunleavy said he's not philosophically opposed to a coalition.
"If it was of a different bent that I thought benefited Alaska and benefited people here in the Valley, I would certainly consider it. But yes, the structure that's currently in place, I would not join that, because I think it's a dead end for a lot of the bills that people in the valley and Alaskans hold dear."
So Republicans in the valley won't be voting just for a senator, but also for the kind of Senate they want.
To see the full unedited interview with Linda Menard, click here.
To see the full unedited interview with Mike Dunleavy, click here.