At debate Dunleavy says Alaska is better off now, while opponents paint dire picture

Republican Charlie Pierce, Democrat Les Gara, independent Bill Walker and Republican incumbent Mike Dunleavy
All four candidates for Alaska governor participated in the 2022 Debate for the State in Anchorage on Wednesday. From left to right: Republican Charlie Pierce, Democrat Les Gara, independent Bill Walker and Republican incumbent Mike Dunleavy. Alaska Public Media, KTOO and Alaska’s News Source produced the debate that this video still was taken from.

Watch the full debate here.

For only the second time time this election season, all four candidates running to be the governor of Alaska participated in a debate Wednesday night.

Incumbent Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy bore many attacks from two of his three challengers. In his closing remarks, Dunleavy argued that Alaska is better off today than it was four years ago.

“Crime is at a 41-year low, he said. “Troopers and VPSOs are up. We have a historic PFD. We’ve cut our operating budget by 10%, other than in education and public safety.”

Democrat Les Gara directly contradicted many of Dunleavy’s assertions and painted a dire picture of Alaska. Gara said high oil revenue driven by the war in Ukraine made this year’s historically high Permanent Fund dividend possible, not the governor. 

“Governor Dunleavy pats himself on the back for the worst school crisis in Alaska history, for the worst mental health crisis in Alaska history,” Gara said. “For rape numbers going up while he’s been governor, even though he told you the opposite.”

Dunleavy and fellow Republican Charlie Pierce used some of their time highlighting former Gov. Bill Walker’s use of the veto to slash PFDs in 2016.

Walker, an independent, said he cut dividends amid extremely low oil prices and helped pass legislation to make dividends sustainable. He said that now, making the dividend predictable is one of the state’s biggest challenges. 

“We’ve gone through $20 billion of savings in the last 10 years,” Walker said. “My concern is with high dividends, we’ve been put on an express lane to high taxes in Alaska.” 

The fourth candidate, Republican Charlie Pierce, was far behind the other candidates in the August primary election. 

Over the one-hour debate, the candidates were asked about abortion rights, missing and murdered indigenous women, and the crash in salmon and crab stocks, among other things. 

Alaska Public Media, KTOO and Alaska’s News Source produced the debate, which aired statewide on television and radio. The full program is available on YouTube and Facebook

Under the state’s new election system, voters will be asked to rank the candidates in order of their preference. The lower ranked votes only come into play if no one candidate gets a majority of the first votes. Then, there’d essentially be one or more instant runoff elections, where the lowest ranked candidate would be eliminated, and his voters’ second choice would be counted. 

The four candidates have all committed to participate in one more candidate forum before Election Day. They’re set to appear together during the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention in Anchorage on Saturday. 

Election day is Nov. 8.

Jeremy Hsieh covers Anchorage with an emphasis on housing, homelessness, infrastructure and development. Reach him at or 907-550-8428. Read more about Jeremy here.

Previous articleWatch: Debate for the State with Alaska’s governor candidates
Next articlePeltola, politics pack first post-pandemic AFN agenda