Candidate Q&As: Compare the candidates in Alaska’s special U.S. House election

The Anchorage Daily News asked candidates for statewide office in the Aug. 16 Alaska primary and special U.S. House elections to answer a series of issue and biographical questions to help voters understand their positions. Some questions were suggested by readers. Read all the responses here.

Three candidates will appear on the Aug. 16 ballot for the special election to fill out the term of U.S. Rep. Don Young as Alaska’s sole member of the House of Representatives: Nick Begich, Sarah Palin and Mary Peltola. Begich and Peltola responded to the ADN survey; Palin did not. Here are their answers side-by-side:

Why are you running?

Nick Begich: If we are going to successfully represent Alaska’s role in our nation to the rest of Congress, it will require someone to make what I call the “business case for Alaska.” I support resource development across the board, and I will never compromise on the freedoms guaranteed to each of us under the U.S. Constitution. I’m running for Congress to bring new energy and solutions to the job. I will work hard to provide the leadership and representation the people of Alaska deserve.

Sarah Palin: Did not respond.

Mary Peltola: I believe in public service and good public policy. I have a vested interest in Alaska and our common future. I would love to work with all Alaskans to address our challenges in a proactive, inclusive and productive way. We are facing economic, social and environmental challenges which will need collaboration and cooperation across our state and nation, and I would be honored to help address these challenges.

Name two big problems or challenges currently facing Alaska and how you plan to address them if elected.

Begich: My top priority when elected is to create economic opportunities that unlock generational wealth for the people of our great state. To do this, we must provide a compelling case to those in Congress that Alaska’s future is a core part of our nation’s future. Whether it’s oil and gas, critical minerals, timber, fishing, or tourism, Alaska provides the nation with a wealth of resources upon which we may build a healthy and stable economy, strong families, and a generation of leadership for our state.

Palin: Did not respond.

Peltola: Inflation is one of our most pressing challenges. While the CARES Act provided a cash infusion nationwide which increased inflation, the demand for goods exceeding the supply has exacerbated the issue. Congress needs to work together to get people back to work to address shortages in human capital as well as needing to strengthen our logistics supply chains.

Collapsing salmon returns are not just a problem for one part of the state, or one user group. The tragedy unfolding in Western Alaska is devastating for the affected communities, and it could happen elsewhere. Alaskans way of life is at risk. While Alaskan families are prohibited from pulling one king salmon from the river, factory trawlers are dumping out metric tons of salmon, halibut, and crab as garbage. We need strong voices for Alaska in every forum where decisions are being made. We need to get to the bottom of what’s driving this crisis. We need to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

Do you believe Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 presidential election? If you believe there was fraud, where and how do you think it took place?

Begich: Unfortunately, Joe Biden is the president. It’s clear that we have a crisis of confidence in our election systems and restoring that confidence requires improved public transparency.

Palin: Did not respond.

Peltola: Yes, there is no question that Joe Biden won the 2020 Presidential election fair and square.

Supporters of former President Donald Trump violently attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2020. Do you believe President Trump should be held responsible for the events of Jan. 6?

Begich: We are a nation built on rule of law and the enforcement thereof. Further, no citizen may stand above the law, irrespective of their position. Any determination of who bears responsibility for illegal acts conducted at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2020 must rest with the courts and should be determined based on those sets of facts that pass the test of reasonable doubt.

Palin: Did not respond.

Peltola: I believe in our courts and judicial system. I have no doubt that once due process has been completed, justice will be served.

Do you think Congress should pass legislation to limit or protect abortion access?

Begich: I agree with the Supreme Court’s decision. Under the 10th Amendment, any powers not specifically enumerated as being within the purview of the federal government are reserved for the states. We have a constitutional amendment process by which we may modify provisions related to this specific issue.

Palin: Did not respond.

Peltola: Congress should act to protect abortion access.

What specific actions, if any, should the U.S. government take to curb gun violence?

Begich: I oppose gun control legislation. I strongly support our Second Amendment rights and will defend our right to keep and bear arms.

Palin: Did not respond.

Peltola: Guns are a part of Alaska’s culture and a core tool of a subsistence lifestyle. I grew up hunting, my husband is a hunter, and I will continue to own guns and defend the right of Alaskans to own guns. We can defend Second Amendment rights and put forth more than just words to address the grief we all share. We must take common sense actions. Provisions like secure storage laws, reasonable waiting periods, and universal background checks can make all of us safer while still preserving the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment.

How do you think new resource development projects in Alaska should be balanced with the interests of environmental protection and climate change mitigation?

Begich: Alaskans have proven time and time again that we can and have developed our resources in a safe and responsible manner. In fact, Alaska’s resource industry is often cited as an international model of best practices. We need to be making the business case to the rest of the country and the broader world that new resource development projects should be pursued here. We have extraordinary resources at our feet and many of our resource and supply chain challenges as a nation can be solved by responsibly developing resources in Alaska.

Palin: Did not respond.

Peltola: Resource development projects have grown Alaska’s economy, and will continue to do so. As someone from rural Alaska, I understand firsthand how development projects can be transformational for our communities. As the world continues to use oil while we transition to fossil fuels, we are better served if that oil comes from Alaska.

But we also cannot let the global transition in how we fuel our economies pass Alaska by, and leave us unprepared. Our future is in renewable energy. For every dollar we invest in short term non renewable fossil fuel development, we need to invest 10 times that amount in long-term renewable energy resources. Alaska is a world leader in development and operation of microgrids and we have an abundance of renewable energy resources with wind, solar, hydro and tidal. We need to tap into these resources now to ensure our future affordable energy needs are met while reducing our carbon footprint.

How will you promote putting aside partisan politics to address complex issues in Congress?

Begich: I want to be a congressman for all Alaskans. In a divided Congress, I believe it is critical that our next congressman has the ability to work with others to advance legislation that is beneficial for Alaska and our nation. We cannot afford to elect representatives who would seek opportunities to intentionally polarize our national discourse or who offer simplistic, empty rhetoric.

Palin: Did not respond.

Peltola: By being civil and respectful, developing positive relationships with all of my colleagues regardless of their party. I have a proven track record of working in a nonpartisan way with all of my former colleagues in the state Legislature. I also have a proven track record of creating bipartisan coalitions to address real Alaskan challenges.

Do you believe the federal government is well positioned to continue to address the COVID-19 pandemic and other future pandemics that may emerge?

Begich: I believe in individual responsibility and data-driven science. The government’s response to COVID-19 did not always follow the underlying science, and as a result many Americans missed a key message that would have dramatically diminished underlying risk, not just for COVID-19 but for diabetes, heart health, and more: namely diet and exercise. I am totally opposed to vaccine mandates and similar government restrictions. The federal government’s response to COVID has burdened an entire generation of Americans with even greater debt and a psychological imprint of misplaced panic.

Palin: Did not respond.

Peltola: Yes.

Should transgender athletes be allowed to compete in sports according to the gender with which they identify?

Begich: No. Men and women are fundamentally different in their genetics and expressed physiology. Ignoring this undisputed scientific fact gaslights an entire generation of Americans and disenfranchises women who work hard to compete in sport.

Palin: Did not respond.

Peltola: I need to better acquaint myself with this issue, which I believe is more complicated than some make it out to be. My starting point is that sports should be fair for all students, and we must protect the rights of all students – especially those that are already subject to significant discrimination. I look forward to learning more, and focusing on the many other pressing challenges the U.S. Congress is facing.

The federal infrastructure bill, which was voted for by all members of Alaska’s congressional delegation, stands to bring millions in federal funding to projects in Alaska. How would you ensure Alaska maximizes the benefits of this bill?

The federal infrastructure bill, which was voted for by all members of Alaska’s congressional delegation, stands to bring millions in federal funding to projects in Alaska. How would you ensure Alaska maximizes the benefits of this bill?

Begich: I am strongly supportive of real, hard infrastructure for Alaska. While this bill contained within it a number of green-new-deal styled provisions, the funds have now been authorized and are being appropriated. For Alaska to maximize the benefits of the bill, we must make certain that those projects which it funds have key components: they focus on hard infrastructure; they are long term; and they provide a maintenance model that ensures the investment is properly supported over its useful life. As Americans we have a responsibility to ourselves and to future generations to maximize the benefit of our investments in ways that provide a positive return to our citizens. Poor investment decisions are ultimately paid for in the form of higher taxes or the hidden tax of inflation. I have great concerns over the level of spending introduced by this and similar bills and will work in the Congress to ensure that investments made by the American people are of high quality.

Palin: Did not respond.

Peltola: Alaska has to compete for a significant amount of the infrastructure funding. I will prioritize ensuring the State, tribal, and local governments have the information they need, and are prepared to submit winning funding applications.

Once funding is awarded, it’s imperative that Alaskans get the job. We need to view our workforce shortage as an opportunity to train young Alaskans so they are qualified to get these good-paying jobs.

What should the federal government be doing to curb inflation and strengthen the U.S. economy?

Begich: Inflation’s root cause can be traced directly to an unprecedented level of economic stimulus and wasteful spending introduced by the Congress, exacerbated by an overly accommodative Federal Reserve which purchased newly issued debt by increasing the money supply (i.e. “money printing”). Economic strength is not driven by loose fiscal and monetary policy, rather it is driven by fundamental factors of labor force participation, productivity, smart investment, innovation, and comparative advantage. In this respect, Alaska’s resources have the potential to play a critical role. Failing to develop these resources leaves the nation’s future to the whims of rivals and adversaries. We must pursue an all-of-the-above development strategy for Alaskan resources as a basis for restoring domestic, vertically-integrated supply chains that will drive U.S. manufacturing, enhance job creation, and deliver generational prosperity. To do this, we must make an articulate and persuasive case for Alaska.

Palin: Did not respond.

Peltola: We need to focus on gaining energy independence. Near term, we need to promote Alaskan oil and gas, while investing in the long term development of affordable and renewable energy. We need to get more people back to work- to get the services sector back on track and get our logistics cranking again. Congress should act aggressively to address supply-chain issues, such as the pending legislation to boost computer-chip production in the United States. Congress has the tools to lower costs for families, and health care is a huge one. I will work to pass the legislation that is being developed in Congress to lower prescription drug prices, and expand access to preventative and mental health care so families are not crippled by medical bills.

What should be done, if anything, to change federal immigration policies?

Begich: Smart, legal immigration has fueled America’s historic growth story; however, today’s immigration policies are anything but smart and legal. Those valuable would-be citizens who could immediately contribute to our nation are placed in the back of the line, often waiting many years before applications can be reviewed and completed, while others who have illegally entered the country are provided with various forms of financial support and permitted to remain within the United States without any legal status. Porous borders undermine an important component of national security; we must ensure only legal entry to our nation is permitted.

Palin: Did not respond.

Peltola: We must welcome legal immigration, and deter illegal immigration. We can improve our legal immigration process by simplifying the bureaucratic red tape that currently makes immigration to this country expensive and dangerous for most. America has a long and proud history of welcoming immigrants, but our current system does not live up to our values. Congress has come close to moving forward with bipartisan solutions that include improving border security and creating viable paths for legal immigrants – and I would champion such an approach that brings us together.

What is the country’s biggest national security threat?

Begich: We face several interrelated national security threats generally centered on reliance to non-allied foreign rivals. This threat manifests in multiple ways: a) rivals often fund our deficit spending b) rivals currently provide energy products to our nation and our allies, and c) rivals control critical aspects of our modern supply chain. U.S. Foreign policy has been greatly limited in its ability to respond to a number of issues of international concern as a result of this interdependence, and a long-term comprehensive effort must be pursued to diminish these dependencies.

Palin: Did not respond.

Peltola: I agree with what Senator Sullivan has been saying for several years. We need a coordinated military strategy for the Arctic, Alaska should play a large role in that strategy. The recent tensions in Russia has made one thing clear, we need to rebuild our military presence in Alaska. I have deep admiration and respect for our military personnel and have two sons that proudly serve in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Where do you want Alaska and the U.S. to be five years from now in regard to emissions reductions and adaptation to the effects of climate change?

Begich: The United States has some of the most stringent environmental regulations in the world. Further, Alaska is a model for ensuring clean air, clean water, and safe resource industry practices. Over the next five years, it is critical that the United States use its influence to make certain that other nations are pursuing practices that diminish pollution of water and air. Our failures as a nation to assure basic, common sense manufacturing practices are broadly followed internationally has actually led to a form of “environmental arbitrage” wherein other nations mine and manufacture resources we consume in conditions that Americans would consider abhorrent. This double standard has hollowed out American industry, sent jobs and opportunities overseas, and done nothing to address true global pollution of our oceans and air.

Palin: Did not respond.

Peltola: I would like to see Alaska well on its way to being energy independent with renewable and affordable energy. Alaska should begin to scale back our dependence on expensive fossil fuels. Alaskan households should be able to rely on affordable energy for their household and transportation needs.

What other important issue would you like to discuss?

Begich: Large technology firms today hold tremendous amounts of information on each citizen: voter records, asset ownership, credit history, likes and preferences, and even purchase history. This largely unregulated data marketplace allows Americans’ private information to be bought and sold, managed and monitored, and used to drive consumer behavior at unprecedented levels. Further, technology platforms are in a position to control the flow of information, to solely deem what they believe to be true, and influence the ability of those with whom they may disagree to reach an audience. This abuse of platform power threatens fundamental rights of self-determination and speech and must be curtailed in order to ensure we remain a truly free people.

Palin: Did not respond.

Peltola: I believe that the upcoming generation has many obstacles before them that previous generations have not had to contend with. Our young people are entering the workforce with crushing student loan debt, no access to affordable housing, rising interest rates, rising inflation, and limited opportunities to find work that provide livable wages, healthcare or a retirement plan option. We need to govern with the next generation in mind, and make investments to support the next generation of our communities.

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