Democrat Mark Begich and Republican Mike Dunleavy tangled over crime and education during a one-on-one statewide debate on Thursday in the race for governor in Alaska.
Begich, a former mayor of Anchorage and one-term U.S. senator, cited budget cuts as contributing to higher crime rates. He said he thought he might be late for the debate, held at Alaska Public Media in Anchorage, because he ended up stopping a fight.
Dunleavy, who left the state Senate in January after five years to focus on the campaign, said crime did not go up because of the Legislature.
Meanwhile, Dunleavy said Begich once sent his son to private school. "And I don't blame him, because as a parent, you want to have the best possible education for your child," Dunleavy said.
Begich's campaign manager, Nora Morse, said by text that Begich's son went to a private school in Washington, D.C., but never in Alaska. She said he goes to West High School in Anchorage now.
Dunleavy has supported educational choice, including as a senator proposing a constitutional amendment that would have allowed for public money to be used for private or religious schools. The measure died. He said Thursday he is "100 percent committed to making sure that we have the best public education in this country."
Begich said he supports investments in public education, including pre-kindergarten, and wants to get away from politicizing annual school funding.
The debate comes less than two weeks before the Nov. 6 election. It was the third head-to-head matchup between Begich and Dunleavy since Gov. Bill Walker announced last week that he was ending his campaign.
Walker, an independent, said he concluded that he could not win against Begich and Dunleavy and thought Begich would be better for Alaska than Dunleavy. Walker worried that Dunleavy could unravel major policies he has put in place, such as his decision to expand Medicaid to cover more lower-income Alaskans.
Dunleavy reiterated concerns he has expressed about how Medicaid is managed. He said he has "no intention of kicking people off of health care," but he said programs must be properly managed.
Begich committed to carrying on a number of Walker's initiatives, including Medicaid expansion and the continued pursuit of a major liquefied natural gas project. The state-sponsored Alaska Gasline Development Corp. has been courting Chinese partners for the project.
Begich has been open to new revenues to support the state budget, while Dunleavy has called for reducing and limiting the size of state government.
Dunleavy said he would cut a fast-rail study and look at eliminating "climatologists." He also said there are about 2,000 funded but unfilled positions in state government, and he would look at whether funding for those could be moved to other needs.
A spokesman for Dunleavy's campaign, Daniel McDonald, said he believed Dunleavy was referring to Walker's climate change adviser and climate change team when he said climatologists.
Earlier Thursday, President Donald Trump endorsed Dunleavy via Twitter. The band Portugal. The Man, which has ties to Alaska, also went to Twitter, to endorse Begich.