Four Republican candidates hoping to keep Gov. Bill Walker from a second term addressed a partisan lunchtime crowd Friday, calling for party unity while questioning Walker’s leadership.

The Republican Women of Juneau hosted the forum at a downtown hotel where about 90 people heard from a few familiar faces and a few new ones.

Former Alaska Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R-Wasilla) and current House Rep. Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski) sat on opposite ends.

In between them sat newcomers Scott Hawkins, an Anchorage business man, and Michael Sheldon, a retired Petersburg fisherman.

In addition to party unity, all four addressed politically-charged issues such as federal overreach, sexual harassment and Alaska’s economy.

“When you’re in a recession, that’s when your neighbor loses their job; when you’re in a depression, that’s when you lose your job, and when you’re in a recovery, that’s when Bill Walker loses his job,” Dunleavy said.

But, the importance of being loyal to the Republican party seemed to resonate the strongest. Republicans want to avoid future coalitions like the one in the House, formed with the help of three Republicans. 

While embracing their role as newcomers, Hawkins and Sheldon took strong unity positions.

“Parties play a very important role,” Hawkins said. “It’s really distasteful when you see people hijacking the party for their own advancement, people who don’t share the values and principles of the party, not even a little bit.”

Sheldon concurred.

“It really upsets me when someone turncoats the Republican party,” he said. “I think they should be ousted immediately for doing so and I think there should be some ramifications for doing that.”

Chenault is the elder statesman, coming off a record four-straight terms as House Speaker.

He spoke at length about public safety and sexual harassment.

“It’s important to me to make sure that not only all Alaskans feel safe at home, in the workplace or out on the street,” he said, “I think it’s very important that we do that. We’ve got to lead by example. If we don’t lead by example, then how can we expect others to follow us?”

The forum also featured candidates for the Lt. Governor position held by Democrat Byron Mallott.

Attending were: Sen. Kevin Meyer, former House Rep. Lynn Gattis, Stephen Wright and Edie Grunwald, whose slain 16-year-old son is part of a high profile homicide case.

Another candidate, state Sen. Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak), declined the invitation. Stevens said he was concerned that attending a campaign-related event might be an ethics violation.

He says because the state paid for his travel to Juneau for the legislative session, he exercised caution against the appearance being state-funded. 

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