Last night the candidates for House District 32 squared off in a debate hosted by the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce and KMXT public radio. Former Borough Mayor Jerome Selby moderated the event, which included all four candidates running for the house seat – Republicans and Kodiak locals Carol Austerman, Louise Stutes and Rich Walker, and Democrat Jerry McCune from Cordova. District 32 serves Kodiak and other coastal fishing communities like Yakutat and Cordova.
The candidates were asked a handful of questions throughout the evening and given two minutes to respond to each. One of the questions dealt with commercial fisheries and how each candidate would ensure it gets the attention it deserves in Juneau. Stutes said she would take an overall view and encourage healthy fisheries.
“We need to provide our fishermen with the ability to have the research done that they need to have done. Boy, in the legislature, I can’t tell you right now where I’d start, but I know that our fisheries are a huge component of the health of Southwest Alaska and it needs to be protected and we need to make sure that our fisheries remain a natural fishery.”
Walker said he would advocate for sustainability in the fisheries by fully funding fisheries management, research and hatcheries.
“I am totally for continued support of fisheries and sending local governments getting on board and saying how they feel about certain issues in the fisheries and getting their words heard at the Pacific fisheries meetings that go on every year. We need to have a voice in these meetings and Kodiak City and Borough are busy doing that and I believe in what they’re trying to do.”
Austerman said if elected she would try to re-establish the coastal caucus in the legislature so coastal legislators can work together on issues.
“And that puts some strength behind the group of fisheries related legislators. So I would also ask to sit on the fisheries committee. I think that is a crucial position for Kodiak and Cordova and the other fishing villages in our district. I also, like I think several people said, I believe in the science-based decision making for sustainable harvests. That is something that is crucial and it needs to be funded.”
McCune, a commercial fishermen himself, said he thinks more education is needed within the legislature about the fishing industry.
“We have to do a better job in this district – in all the fishing districts in the state actually, Kodiak’s got to team up with Cordova and Yakutat and we’ve got to get a bigger voice and more education down there to a lot of the legislators. They think that fish is something that they can just want, use, sport fish, do whatever they want with it, but these are people’s livelihoods. Another thing that needs to be done is the regulatory body that regulates, the board of fish regulates us, that’s what we live by, needs a review. It is way behind the times.”
You can listen to the full debate on our website, kmxt.org. The three Kodiak residents, Austerman, Walker and Stutes will vie for the republican seat during the primary election on August 19. The winner of that will then face McCune in the general election November 4.
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