Alyse Galvin and Dimitri Shein, candidates running in the Democratic primary for U.S. Congress in Alaska, offered voters a choice between a progressive businessman and an independent moderate in an Anchorage debate Tuesday night.
Galvin has long been registered an independent, and spent much of the debate staking out the "listen to all sides" territory. Shein is a Democrat with a quick wit who has focused his message on "Medicare for all," offering single-payer health care for all Americans.
Galvin said she has the political and financial backing to take on Alaska Rep. Don Young. Shein said he has the radical message needed to counter the longtime lawmaker.
So far, the money has flowed towards Galvin in the campaign: She has raised more than $600,000, mostly in small-dollar donations, while Shein's campaign has been largely self-funded. He raised less than $40,000 from donors as of his August 1 filing with the Federal Election Commission.
Galvin said her opponent is "a really nice person," but "what he doesn't have is the machine that I have to win" against Young, who has held his seat since 1973.
But Shein argued that the way to take down Young (who had raised more than $800,000 as of August 1) is with the right message. "The only way we can win" is by connecting with the business community, Shein said. "You better be talking business. You better be talking about bringing money to the state of Alaska."
Shein said that Medicare for All would be an economic driver. He wants the plan that is available to his wife and six children — all Alaska Natives — to be available to the rest of the state's residents.
Having government-sponsored health care allowed Shein, an accountant, to start his own business, he said. Making it available to all Alaskans will diversify the state's economy and bring in more doctors, he argued.
"The reason Republicans win and Don Young wins is they talk money. I am going to talk money. We need a business message. We need to connect financially" with voters, Shein said.
Shein supports existing legislation H.R. 676, a Medicare-for-all bill that pays for health care from exisiting government revenues, such as payments for the Medicare, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, increasing personal income tax on the top 5 percent of earners, adding a progressive excise tax on payroll, a tax on unearned income and a tax on stock and bond transactions.
"We just need to get people elected to pass it," Shein said at the debate.
Shein is a Russian immigrant — he moved to Alaska when he was 12 years old. He met his wife at West High School in Anchorage. They both attended University of Alaska Anchorage. She is a physician; he is an accountant. They have six children.
Galvin, a lifelong Alaskan who previously lobbied for education initiatives, offered a less specific prescription for addressing Alaskan's high health care costs, but said she is open to any solution that helps offer comprehensive health care for all and lower costs for pharmaceuticals and insurance.
As an independent, she would start by focusing on solutions that the parties have in common, Shein said. "We have not had an advocate at the table," she said.
When asked about drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the pair proved that in Alaska, even Democratic primary candidates, aren't going to aggressively oppose the state's most lucrative industry. Galvin said she supports a continued quality process for listening to local communities. She criticized the way it came about, and the tax bill to which Alaska's congressional delegation attached it. Shein said he doesn't think ANWR oil will be the financial boon some hope, as oil prices go down and drilling becomes a less-viable option in the future.
Both Galvin and Shein are making a play to nab the rural and Native voters that have long come out Don Young.
"You're not going to beat Don Young without the rural vote," Shein said.
"People got into a habit," Gavlin said. Village elders want to know that candidates appreciate their ways and opinions, she said.