Thursday, March 11, 2010

Republican Alaska State Senator Con Bunde Retiring; Cathy Giessel, Mark Moronell And Janet Reiser Jockey To Succeed Him In Senate District P

On March 11th, 2010, the Anchorage Daily News reports that Republican State Senator Con Bunde, a veteran of 18 years total service in the Alaska State Legislature, is retiring and will not seek re-election this year to his Senate District P seat, a mostly high-rent district encompassing the area from the Hiland Road area of Eagle River and the Anchorage Hillside southward along Turnagain Arm through Indian, Girdwood, Whittier and Hope. Senator Bunde did not join the bipartisan majority caucus in the Senate, but chose to be a part of the four-member minority caucus, and is frustrated over its marginalization in Senate affairs. Bunde believes that the state isn’t doing enough to prepare for the day when the oil runs out and the trans-Alaska pipeline must be dismantled. Bunde also cited unspecified medical problems in his family as another factor.

Con Bunde was generally a neoconservative, but also somewhat of a statist and at times had a reputation for displaying an imperious attitude. One of his more controversial pieces of legislation was a bill which upgraded the state's seatbelt law from secondary enforcement to primary enforcement, meaning that a cop can stop you if you're observed not to be wearing your seat belt. But Bunde was also fervently pro-family and pro-life. In any event, he is to be commended for his willingness to serve his constituents for such a lengthy period of time; his personal integrity always remained beyond reproach. Andrew Halcro served alongside Con Bunde when both were in the state house; he posts his thoughts HERE.

Already there are three prospective replacements jockeying for position, although the Alaska Division of Elections website only lists one at this time. Catherine "Cathy" Giessel and Mark Moronell will be duking it out to determine which Republican goes forward after the August 26th Republican state primary, while awaiting the winner will be one Democrat, Janet Reiser.

The differences between Giessel and Moronell appear anecdotal at first glance. Both are health care professionals, so health care is at the top of their respective lists of priorities. Both believe the private sector should take the lead in assuring affordable health care for as man as possible. Moronell favors developing opportunites for Medicare-aged individuals and providing a voice for hospitals, clinics and providers; competent, complete and cost-effective health care is his goal. Giessel, in contrast, is more concerned about ensuring maximum choice for people; she strongly opposes any legislation forcing all people to buy insurance. Giessel further states that forcing us to select only from insurance companies in our own state significantly increases cost and limits competition. But most importantly, she acknowledges the right to bear the risk of being without insurance.

Both these Republicans are also concerned about the economy and resource development. Both favor diversifying Alaska's economy further and providing more incentives for the free market to take the lead. But Giessel goes further than Moronell in one area - social issues. Giessel is explicitly pro-family and pro-life. Giessel also has a much longer service resume than Moronell; it is possible that Giessel has served on nearly every committee and commission which exists in Alaska. On the other hand, Moronell is explicitly pro-Second Amendment, being a life member of the NRA. Nevertheless, I believe Cathy Giessel would be a stronger candidate against Janet Reiser than Mark Moronell.

-- Cathy Giessel's official campaign website is HERE, and her Facebook page is HERE.
-- Mark Moronell's official campaign website is HERE.

But Democrat Janet Reiser is not exactly chopped liver. As a member of the Chugach Electric Association Board of Directors, she has acquired considerable expertise on energy issues. One of her goals is to develop and implement a comprehensive energy policy for Alaska that includes traditional, renewable and alternative energy. She believes that a stable, reliable, and affordable energy future is critical to Alaskans to create jobs and maintain the quality of life we currently enjoy.

In addition, Reiser is an engineer and an entrepreneur with over 30 years of Alaska, national and international experience in starting and growing businesses, which has conferred understanding as to what it takes to create and maintain jobs. Consequently, despite being a Democrat, she is likely to be reasonably sympathetic towards free market solutions, although not so much so as Cathy Giessel. Reiser also favors the standard package of good roads, quality schools, and safe neighborhoods (who doesn't?), but she does not yet disclose her position on various social issues. Most Democrats tend to be pro-choice rather than pro-life.

-- Janet Reiser's official campaign website is HERE.

Prognosis: If the Republican primary were to be held today, Cathy Giessel would defeat Mark Moronell with plenty of daylight; she simply has too many advantages over Moronell. But defeating Janet Reiser in the general election would be much tougher; Reiser has an edge in energy literacy. Giessel will have to work hard to prevail over Janet Reiser in November.

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