Hot Seats: Vince Beltrami and Cathy Giessel for Senate District N
It’s been called the “heavy weight title fight” of the state election races this year. New financial disclosure reports out Nov. 1 show both candidates for Senate District N — Vince Beltrami and Sen. Cathy Giessel — have each raised over $200,000. That’s among the top campaign fund amounts for a state race in Alaska history.
“Just trying to see if there’s anything I can do to earn your support or if you have any questions of me or concerns.”
Beltrami spends most of his nights in comfy tennis shoes, walking his large district that spans all the way from northeast Anchorage down to Girdwood.
Beltrami is used to campaigning. The president of the AFL-CIO has done his fair share of door knocking, but never for himself. He said now, he’s motivated by poor leadership.
“Everyone is really unhappy about the failure of the current crop, the majority leaders, to get the budget deficit under control,” Beltrami said, adding that he is hoping that feeling gets him all the way to Juneau, somewhere he says he could have walked to by now, he’s knocked on so many doors.
“I thought it would be a really good weight-loss program. No,” Beltrami chuckled. “I have lost 18 pounds though.”
Beltrami is banking on his personality to turn around the numbers. He’s running in a district that favors Republicans almost two to one. However, the union boss said he dropped his party two years ago, well before he decided to run for Senate.
Beltrami is hoping to take advantage of the number of Alaskans in his district with no party: 5,197. If you add that to the number of registered Democrats in his party, you get a big number: 9,973. That’s more than 8,580 registered Republicans in his district and Beltrami said he’s even getting some of those.
At one door in Potter Marsh, we overheard this woman’s confession to Beltrami: “We’re conservatives to be honest, but right now it’s not who the person is, whether you’re conservative or not, it’s what you can do.” That woman took Beltrami’s literature, and promised to think about voting for him.
Beltrami calls his plan to solve the state’s fiscal crisis a three-pronged approach. Cuts where they make sense, some sort of tax and restructuring the permanent fund. Beltrami said his past as a negotiator will help him solve our future.
Opponent Giessel said her past has already made Alaska better.
“Being a senator is a lot like being a nurse practitioner,” she said. “Folks come with a problem and I help folks walk through it and find solutions for them.”
However, being an incumbent is tough this election cycle. Giessel said she gets a lot of flack from Alaskans on the other side of the door.
“’You guys didn’t fix the budget,'” she said she’s heard before. “So usually the problem is they haven’t heard of the $1.2 billion dollars we’ve reduced the budget in the past two years.”
Giessel added that the Legislature also passed a $500 million Medicaid reform bill, and as chair of the Resource Committee, she cut oil and gas tax credits in half.
“Folks have reason to be upset,” she said. “They weren’t really getting a clear message of what we were doing in Juneau, they were getting a bumper sticker and that bumper sticker, in fact, wasn’t true.”
Giessel’s budget plan includes more cuts, restructuring the permanent fund, and adding a sales tax.
“About 75 percent of my constituents say they would like a statewide sales tax and the rationale is very logical: everyone contributes to it,” she explained.
Giessel said voters should trust her because of her experience in Republican leadership, while Beltrami said he’s trying to avoid the baggage that comes with belonging to a party. Both claim they work across the aisle.
It’s up to voters to decide which one would do it better.
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