Alaskans are getting to know Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams, a Democrat who finds himself with a shot at becoming Alaska's next U.S. senator. McAdams has taken an unpaid leave from his job with the Sitka School District to campaign full time and has moved into a studio apartment in Anchorage.
A recent Rasmussen Reports poll showed him within striking distance of Republican nominee Joe Miller. A wild card is incumbent Lisa Murkowski, who is considering getting into the race as an independent write-in after losing in the Republican primary. That could draw votes from Miller but potentially from McAdams as well.
McAdams hasn't received nearly as much press coverage as Miller, the tea party-backed candidate who shocked the nation by toppling Murkowski. So what are McAdams' views? The Daily News asked him this week about several issues facing the U.S. Senate. Below are excerpted questions and answers, beginning with his stance on the federal health care law that Miller wants repealed.
Q. What's your position on the federal health care law?
A. I think there are some good things and some bad things about the bill. My greatest concern as it relates to health care is that we still have too many independent small-business owners, commercial fishermen, people who are self-employed, who just can't afford premiums for health care.
Q. What are some of the bad things about the health care law?
A. You know, I certainly want to learn more about mandated premiums. I think any time you have a government mandate in general that's a tough thing. At the same time, I'm excited that kids will no longer have to deal with pre-existing condition clauses in care; that's a good thing.
Q. What about the stimulus? Do you think it was the right move; do you think there needs to be more stimulus?
A. We do need to be careful about federal spending. What I would say is that I'm the only guy in this race who has ever had to vote on a public budget, I'm the only guy in this race who has ever had to cut a public budget. ... When it comes to federal investment, especially in Alaska, I will fight for federal investment in our infrastructure, in our roads and our schools, in our health care centers. You know, any bill that I can attach an Alaskan project to I'll be supportive of.
Q. You talked about the need to control federal spending; do you think the stimulus went too far?
A. Any vehicle that will allow me to continue to build Alaskan infrastructure, because we're a young state, is something I'll be interested in looking at.
Q. What's your position on the bank bailouts?
A. I think that we need better oversight of Wall Street. ... It was hard to blame Sen. Murkowski for voting for it. As a small-town mayor, if the police chief came to me and said, mayor, we believe that if you don't make this decision immediately it could create a catastrophe in the community, I'd be derelict if I didn't listen to my chief.
Well, when Sen. Murkowski voted on this bill she was taking the advice of the secretary of Treasury, Bush's secretary of Treasury, Paulson. I think we need to fix Wall Street and make sure this never happens again. And I won't support any future bailouts.
Q. How about the war in Afghanistan? What's your position on that?
A. I think we do need to aggressively pursue al-Qaida across the globe and in Afghanistan. ... At the same time, before I ever vote to send our troops into harm's way, I will always ask for a definition of our mission. I'll ask the administration to explain what success looks like.
Q. Do you think it's time to pull out the troops or to set a date?
A. I think it's worth allowing Gen. Petraeus the opportunity to continue to crystallize our mission and our focus there. Al-Qaida is still a threat in the world.
Q. If you're elected, what would be your No. 1 priority?
A. The first thing I'd do? The first thing I'll do when I win this office is I'll have my staff do a comprehensive policy brief on the way that we collect royalty on federal oil developed on federal land. And I'll advocate that we use an increase in royalty for the next lease that we ink in this state to endow a renewable energy permanent fund. That will create jobs, put people to work and take 150 standalone utility grids in Alaska and make them renewable.
Q. How about climate change? Would you support cap-and-trade legislation?
A. There's so many different packages out there, so many different vehicles. I do believe that climate change is real. I do believe that humans have an influence on climate change. But, you know, I also know that every energy realist in this country understands that oil and gas are going to continue to be a critical part of our energy future until we are able to bridge into a new energy economy. There is new oil and gas that comes on line all over the world. The difference is, when we extract in Alaska, when we develop in Alaska, we do it under the highest environmental standards on the planet.
Q. What kind of grade would you give the president so far?
A. I think I would probably give him a C, probably a C. I absolutely disagree with President Obama's positions on public education. I think you cannot standardize a kid; I think that it is urban in its view. ... I think that Obama and the Democrats' national transportation plan is not rural-friendly ... a transportation reauthorization that is exclusively urban, that's public transit and bike trail-heavy. We still have roads. We need to connect communities and build our economy in this state.
Q. What's your position on earmarks?
A. Alaska as a young state as a matter of equal footing deserves to be developed. In the tradition of Ted Stevens, we need to continue to fight for Alaska's fair share.
Find Sean Cockerham online at adn.com/contact/scockerham or call him at 257-4344.