This story originally published in the Peninsula Clarion.
Ahead of Tuesday’s election, the Clarion is publishing interviews with candidates vying to represent Alaskan communities. In our final set of interviews, we talked to Republican Rep. Don Young and Independent challenger Alyse Galvin, who are competing for Alaska’s only seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The seat has been held by Young for 45 years.
Question: What would be your first priority as congresswoman, should you be elected?
Answer: Health care. I would like to put out the fires in health care that I think we can do right away. Then, I would also like to work toward a bigger plan, so that every Alaskan and American is covered and can afford coverage for primary care and mental health care, at the very least.
Q: With more and more school and mass shootings being reported in recent years, how do you think America can keep their school’s safe?
A: I agree that we’re in a time right now where parents are afraid to send their kids to school and kids are frightened. It’s not the kind of environment I would want for anyone who is about to learn. It’s very difficult for people to learn when they are in fear. Certainly, arming teachers is not the answer. I firmly believe that we need to retain our Second Amendment rights. In Alaska, this is a really important issue to so many, because of our need to bring protein to the table and also to protect it for sport. So keeping that in place, I think there are some things that we can do to create space for us to feel safer. One is background checks. We know 21 states already have that in place. I want to make sure we’re part of that. Then, I would like to also fully support the Centers for Disease Control to see what exactly is best in reducing deaths by firearms. For example in Alaska, more than half of our firearm deaths are by suicide. So for here, I would really want to make sure we would be resourcing mental health care. I would want to really study up and make science-based decisionmaking on any policy therein, while fully protecting our rights to bear arms.
Q: Reproductive health continues to dominate congressional conversation, with some people hoping to overturn Roe vs. Wade and defund Planned Parenthood. Where do you stand on these issues?
A: It’s everybody’s concern. We certainly need to make sure that the laws we have in place are firmly upheld. I think in this case, we know it’s a very personal decision, what you choose for your care, and for some, it’s a religious decision. That should remain within the domain of a woman and her caregiver, and we need to make sure that all citizens have information and have access to healthy care. Whatever it takes to make that happen, I support. I think education is going to be a key piece when it comes to having fewer unplanned pregnancies. I don’t think that’s what makes a healthy society. I think, ultimately, we want to make sure that we’re aware of our bodies in an age-appropriate way. As a mom of four, I’ll say that I supported all along my children understanding their bodies and I would want their peers to have that same knowledge and also understand what a safe relationship is. It’s one thing to know biologically, your body, but it’s also important to know what the signs are of healthy engagement with friends. I really want the best for every child.
Q: Many states have legalized marijuana in the last few years, including Alaska. Canada just legalized cannabis on a national level. How do you see the future of recreational cannabis in this country, in this state?
A: Alaskans have voted and it’s legal here. My concern is that the small business owners are having to carry a lot of cash and it’s not safe. I would like to work on laws to ensure that small business owners are able to conduct their business safely. It’s a lot of cash. I would like to make sure that where cannabis is effective medicinally, that it’s available. One thing that comes to mind is our veterans. My understanding is that it’s working quite well for some type of PTSD and other things. I just want to make sure that it’s legally available and affordable as a medicine when it’s appropriate. I would also like to have cannabis studied more, particularly the use of cannabis among children so that we have a good understanding of how it is affecting our youth. I think that will ultimately bring our community to a more accepting environment of safe ways of doing business if we’re also working to keep our children safe.
Q: The Kenai Peninsula and Alaska’s economy has long been dependent on oil and gas. What will you do to boost the economy here beyond oil and gas?
A: I would like to see all of Alaska do more with their energy as one avenue of diversifying. I think we are seeing great examples of homes being built using local energy, whether it’s geo or solar, wind or hydro even. They’re expensive on the front end, but they save us on the back end. In some rural communities, it’s been a great opportunity for elders to be able to afford to live in their community in perpetuity because the price of utilities is so much. There are other things we can do, and maybe already do, but could do better. For example, our tourism. In Fairbanks, the tourism industry has managed to change up their revenue streams so that more than 45 percent of their dollars are coming in the winter time. They just got smarter about it. Let’s see what we have. We have the northern lights. Let’s make relationships with China, other parts of Asia and change up our airport. That’s where I would come into play, if there’s a need with the infrastructure piece. Now they’re getting almost half of their revenue stream in the wintertime. I think about what the Kenai Peninsula could do in the wintertime. It’s pretty fun out here. I don’t think that they are marketing it much. That might be one area, to look at what you’re doing well, and be innovative about it. Tourism is certainly here in the summertime, but maybe there’s a way for us to explore what could happen in the wintertime in this area. Another would be innovations in doing things with technology. I assume we have proper broadband here. You could use those internationally marketable skills, whether it’s the next iPhone app, or software or whatever it is. The people here are very bright, so should they choose that innovative business, that’s possible.
Q: Where do you see the future of the Arctic Wildlife National Refuge?
A: I think it’s a refuge. While I know a bill was passed for some exploratory drilling, there will be a process for that. I think with the new technology and the drilling that we have now, it’s still possible to keep it a refuge and have much less of a footprint than what has been in the past with oil and gas drilling. That’s what I see for it. It’s going to be important for any development to be always balancing the economic advantages with the very important protections that are also critical to our people.