The Alaska Beacon asked Alaska’s legislative candidates to answer a 15-question survey about their positions on a variety of issues. Read all of their responses here. Answers have not been edited.
Rebecca Himschoot, nonpartisan candidate from Sitka
The Alaska Constitution allows legislators to call a constitutional convention at any time. Are you interested in calling a convention?
Would you be willing to join a coalition majority in which the opposite political party controls a majority of seats?
Should new public employees have access to a pension?
Should the state take over the federal permitting process that regulates construction in wetlands?
Should Juneteenth be a state holiday?
How should the state of Alaska set the amount of the Permanent Fund dividend each year?
The Permanent Fund is there to sustain future generations. The bipartisan fiscal working group made progress towards a long-term solution, and I am on board with solutions that balance our budget, protect and grow the Permanent Fund, allow for stable PFDs, and adequately fund schools and other public infrastructure.
What’s the biggest need in your district, and how would you address it?
Strong schools, consistent and dependable marine highway service, accessible housing, and thriving waterfronts that support small-boat fishermen are critical priorities for the communities of House District 2.
I’ll work to stabilize school funding, transition the Alaska Marine Highway to a public corporation model that offers consistent and dependable service, and invest in infrastructure that supports working families, organized labor, and Alaska’s small business ecosystem.
In the bigger picture, none of this work can happen without a strong leader advocating for our district in Juneau. I’m committed to standing up for the needs of our communities and working with legislators across the political spectrum to advance policies that benefit House District 2.
What policies and laws should Alaska follow with regard to abortion?
Alaskans have a right to privacy enshrined in our state constitution. The Alaska Supreme Court has consistently interpreted this right to privacy to include the right to a safe, legal abortion. I will support policies that allow Alaskans to exercise their constitutional rights, which includes a right to abortion. Alaskans are independent people who mind our own business – always have been and always will be.
How should the state reduce the threat of gun violence and mass shootings?
I support increasing behavioral health support and advancing common-sense gun regulations that allow our many responsible gun owners to continue living their lives, feeding their families, and defending themselves, while also reducing the rate of gun deaths in our state. These ideas are not mutually exclusive. Alaska has the highest rate of gun deaths in the nation, and there are many policies that could reduce the rate of gun deaths while protecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners.
How much should a legislator’s faith or religion determine state law and policy?
Separation of church and state is a principle of our nation and government. While faith may provide a helpful ethical framework for individual legislators, our responsibility is to determine state law and policy in accordance with our state’s legal framework.
What should the state do to improve retention of public employees, including teachers?
Being a classroom teacher for 18 years in Alaska has been immensely rewarding, and it has also been disheartening to see so many talented educators leave our state. Each school year, an increasing number of educators across the state receive a pink slip, despite the fact that Alaska currently faces a shortage of over 1000 teachers. School districts in Alaska wait each spring until the legislature adjourns to learn how much funding they’ll have from the state. By fully funding schools early in the session, communities would better be able to retain educators. Alaska’s educators are among the best in the world and deserve to be supported and valued.
Ultimately, we won’t be able to retain talented teachers or other public servants so long as we do not offer benefits that are competitive with what other states offer. I strongly support a return to a Defined Benefit retirement system.
What does an ideal state ferry system look like?
A decade ago I took five exchange students from Sitka and Juneau to Tenakee Springs for their post-arrival orientation. The students got to experience a remote Southeast Alaska village, and the community of Tenakee got to meet kids from all over the world. This was possible because just 10 years ago the State of Alaska was able to offer regular, reliable, and affordable ferry service in much of coastal Alaska. Let’s not forget what a functional marine highway system provides our communities connected by water: access to health care and fresh food, opportunities to connect with others in the region, and a safe and affordable way for independent travelers to see our beautiful coastal communities. The ferries are our highway!
I support transitioning the Alaska Marine Highway to a public corporation model that offers consistent and dependable service, and I am open to other solutions that honor the importance of this critical infrastructure for coastal Alaska.
What, if any, changes does the state need to make to ensure voting is equitable and secure?
Vote-by-mail is an important way to expand voting access to Alaska residents with access to reliable postal service, but we had high rates of ballot rejection due to technical errors in the most recent election – especially in rural areas. That means that for Alaskans to have meaningful voting access, we must have a system to reduce ballot rejection rates (e.g. by waiving the witness requirement) or a way for voters to cure ballots. I also support turning Election Day into a holiday so that workers can vote without losing wages from taking time off of work.
What do you intend to do about the poor returns of salmon in the Yukon and Kuskokwim drainages, and what are the main causes of the problems?
These salmon runs provide food, livelihood, and community to thousands of Alaskans. The decline of king and chum salmon runs in the Yukon and Kuskokwim is alarming and presents a clear danger to the well-being of many Alaskans. Ensuring that tribal leaders have a seat at the table, and that we advance regulations to reduce ocean bycatch and limit the impact of warming waters, will go a long way towards addressing this problem. This work will require investment from the North Pacific Council and other entities. As a legislator, I will work to amplify this issue and ensure that protecting this critical resource remains a priority for our state.
What constitutional amendments, if any, do you support?
I support constitutionalizing of a sustainable draw from the Permanent Fund and guaranteeing a Permanent Fund dividend.