The Daily News asked candidates for statewide office in the Aug. 16 Alaska primary and special U.S. House elections to answer a series of issue and biographical questions to help voters understand their positions. Some questions were suggested by readers. Read all the responses here.
Mary Peltola • Party: Democrat • Occupation: Former legislator; former executive director, Kuskokwim River Inter Tribal Fish Commission • Age: 48 • Residence: Bethel • marypeltola.com
Relevant experience or prior offices held
Alaska State House 1999-2009, Bethel City Council 2011-2013, Orutsararmuit Native Council Tribal Court Judge 2020-2021
Why are you running for office?
I believe in public service and good public policy. I have a vested interest in Alaska and our common future. I would love to work with all Alaskans to address our challenges in a proactive, inclusive and productive way. We are facing economic, social and environmental challenges which will need collaboration and cooperation across our state and nation, and I would be honored to help address these challenges.
Name two big problems or challenges currently facing Alaska and how you plan to address them if elected.
Inflation is one of our most pressing challenges. While the CARES Act provided a cash infusion nationwide which increased inflation, the demand for goods exceeding the supply has exacerbated the issue. Congress needs to work together to get people back to work to address shortages in human capital as well as needing to strengthen our logistics supply chains.
Collapsing salmon returns are not just a problem for one part of the state, or one user group. The tragedy unfolding in Western Alaska is devastating for the affected communities, and it could happen elsewhere. Alaskans way of life is at risk. While Alaskan families are prohibited from pulling one king salmon from the river, factory trawlers are dumping out metric tons of salmon, halibut, and crab as garbage. We need strong voices for Alaska in every forum where decisions are being made. We need to get to the bottom of what’s driving this crisis. We need to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
Do you believe Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 presidential election? If you believe there was fraud, where and how do you think it took place?
Yes, there is no question that Joe Biden won the 2020 Presidential election fair and square.
Supporters of former President Donald Trump violently attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2020. Do you believe President Trump should be held responsible for the events of Jan. 6?
I believe in our courts and judicial system. I have no doubt that once due process has been completed, justice will be served.
Do you think Congress should pass legislation to limit or protect abortion access?
Congress should act to protect abortion access.
What specific actions, if any, should the U.S. government take to curb gun violence?
Guns are a part of Alaska’s culture and a core tool of a subsistence lifestyle. I grew up hunting, my husband is a hunter, and I will continue to own guns and defend the right of Alaskans to own guns. We can defend Second Amendment rights and put forth more than just words to address the grief we all share. We must take common sense actions. Provisions like secure storage laws, reasonable waiting periods, and universal background checks can make all of us safer while still preserving the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment.
How do you think new resource development projects in Alaska should be balanced with the interests of environmental protection and climate change mitigation?
Resource development projects have grown Alaska’s economy, and will continue to do so. As someone from rural Alaska, I understand firsthand how development projects can be transformational for our communities. As the world continues to use oil while we transition to fossil fuels, we are better served if that oil comes from Alaska.
But we also cannot let the global transition in how we fuel our economies pass Alaska by, and leave us unprepared. Our future is in renewable energy. For every dollar we invest in short term non renewable fossil fuel development, we need to invest 10 times that amount in long-term renewable energy resources. Alaska is a world leader in development and operation of microgrids and we have an abundance of renewable energy resources with wind, solar, hydro and tidal. We need to tap into these resources now to ensure our future affordable energy needs are met while reducing our carbon footprint.
How will you promote putting aside partisan politics to address complex issues in Congress?
By being civil and respectful, developing positive relationships with all of my colleagues regardless of their party. I have a proven track record of working in a nonpartisan way with all of my former colleagues in the State Legislature. I also have a proven track record of creating bipartisan coalitions to address real Alaskan challenges.
Do you believe the federal government is well positioned to continue to address the COVID-19 pandemic and other future pandemics that may emerge?
Should transgender athletes be allowed to compete in sports according to the gender with which they identify?
I need to better acquaint myself with this issue, which I believe is more complicated than some make it out to be. My starting point is that sports should be fair for all students, and we must protect the rights of all students – especially those that are already subject to significant discrimination. I look forward to learning more, and focusing on the many other pressing challenges the U.S. Congress is facing.
The federal infrastructure bill, which was voted for by all members of Alaska’s congressional delegation, stands to bring millions in federal funding to projects in Alaska. How would you ensure Alaska maximizes the benefits of this bill?
Alaska has to compete for a significant amount of the infrastructure funding. I will prioritize ensuring the State, tribal, and local governments have the information they need, and are prepared to submit winning funding applications.
Once funding is awarded, it’s imperative that Alaskans get the job. We need to view our workforce shortage as an opportunity to train young Alaskans so they are qualified to get these good-paying jobs.
What should the federal government be doing to curb inflation and strengthen the U.S. economy?
We need to focus on gaining energy independence. Near term, we need to promote Alaskan oil and gas, while investing in the long term development of affordable and renewable energy. We need to get more people back to work- to get the services sector back on track and get our logistics cranking again. Congress should act aggressively to address supply-chain issues, such as the pending legislation to boost computer-chip production in the United States. Congress has the tools to lower costs for families, and health care is a huge one. I will work to pass the legislation that is being developed in Congress to lower prescription drug prices, and expand access to preventative and mental health care so families are not crippled by medical bills.
What should be done, if anything, to change federal immigration policies?
We must welcome legal immigration, and deter illegal immigration. We can improve our legal immigration process by simplifying the bureaucratic red tape that currently makes immigration to this country expensive and dangerous for most. America has a long and proud history of welcoming immigrants, but our current system does not live up to our values. Congress has come close to moving forward with bipartisan solutions that include improving border security and creating viable paths for legal immigrants – and I would champion such an approach that brings us together.
What is the country’s biggest national security threat?
I agree with what Senator Sullivan has been saying for several years. We need a coordinated military strategy for the Arctic, Alaska should play a large role in that strategy. The recent tensions in Russia has made one thing clear, we need to rebuild our military presence in Alaska. I have deep admiration and respect for our military personnel and have two sons that proudly serve in the U.S. Coast Guard.
Where do you want Alaska and the U.S. to be five years from now in regard to emissions reductions and adaptation to the effects of climate change?
I would like to see Alaska well on its way to being energy independent with renewable and affordable energy. Alaska should begin to scale back our dependence on expensive fossil fuels. Alaskan households should be able to rely on affordable energy for their household and transportation needs.
What other important issue would you like to discuss?
I believe that the upcoming generation has many obstacles before them that previous generations have not had to contend with. Our young people are entering the workforce with crushing student loan debt, no access to affordable housing, rising interest rates, rising inflation, and limited opportunities to find work that provide livable wages, healthcare or a retirement plan option. We need to govern with the next generation in mind, and make investments to support the next generation of our communities.