Alaska Gubernatorial Candidates Take on Fisheries Issues

When it comes to myriad commercial fisheries issues facing
Alaska, from a declining budget to Russia’s ban on import of Alaska seafood,
three candidates vying to be Alaska’s next governor had plenty to say this past
week in Kodiak.
The occasion was the 2014 fisheries debate, sponsored by the
Kodiak Chamber of Commerce and KMXT Kodiak public radio, featuring incumbent
Gov. Sean Parnell, Independent candidate Bill Walker and Democrat Byron
Mallott. (Five days after the debate, Walker and Mallott announced in Anchorage
that they had combined their campaigns to a single Independent slate, with
Walker running for governor and Mallott for lieutenant governor).
In his closing comments during the two-hour debate on Aug.
28, Walker said he was running because as a life-long resident, father and
grandfather, he was worried about the future of the state. When someone in
Fairbanks asked him recently why he was working so hard on his campaign, Walker
said he responded with “Let me ask you a question: if you were out in a boat
with your family and taking on water, how hard would you bail?”
Alaska’s fisheries, said Mallott, are a bellwether of the
kind of place we are, the kind of people we are.” Alaskans’ concern for the
demise of the salmon resource runs deep, he noted, and was a reason for
All three offered suggestions on increasing resident
involvement and ownership in Alaska’s fishing and processing industry, from tax
credits to developing the next generation of employable workers for the
industry.  But as Parnell brought up tax
incentives, Walker spoke of his passion for local hire, and said if he were to
provide such economic incentives, they would be based on the company’s
percentage of local hire.
In addition to questions from fisheries writers, the
candidates responded to questions from the audience, including what the state
should do to help those in the fishing industry with no employer-based health
Walker said he would, as governor, quickly accept expanded
Medicaid for Alaska, for three reasons. “Number one, he said, Alaskans have
already paid for it. Number two, it helps between 10,000 and 40,00 Alaskans,
and three, it creates over 4,000 new medical positions in Alaska, and that’s
before it brings down the cost of health care in Alaska.”

All three men also spoke of the importance of providing
educational and economic means to help young Alaskans gain entry to the fishing
industry, and protecting fishery habitat. 
Growing the resource, so there is a bright future, low interest loans,
research and development opportunities are key, Walker said.