CANDIDATE Q&A: U.S. Senate — Shoshana Gungurstein

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.

Shoshana Gungurstein • Party: Non-partisan • Occupation: Businessperson • Age: 38 • Residence: Juneau •

Relevant experience or prior offices held

I’m a community organizer, entrepreneur, investor and business leader. Post JD/MBA, my work experiences in corporate private sector and startup settings of finance, renewables, film, and healthcare, inform a multilateral and dynamic approach to implement sensible solutions as Alaska’s Senator.

Why are you running for office?

To serve our great state and bring our people unity and prosperity. To increase multi-generational representation of all Alaskans in the US Senate. Our elders should pass the baton to an independent and non-partisan voice like myself, so that I can lead Alaska to a prosperous future.

Name two big problems or challenges currently facing Alaska and how you plan to address them if elected.

Two problems are high cost of living; and a lack of growth and opportunity. People are not getting what they need, when they need it. We shouldn’t be the state with one of the worst infrastructure in the union. The cost of living is simply too high and needs to be addressed. Why should people have to choose between feeding their kids or heating their homes? The financial battery of our State is very low. We must recharge it so that we can retain our current population and not lose more people to the Lower 48 due to lack of growth and opportunity.

I will be championing policies that allow for energy and food independence, responsible development, growth of industry, vocational job training, manufacturing, efficient infrastructure, preserving our great environment, and improving overall quality of life while protecting our liberty, privacy and freedom.

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. He won that election. Let’s move on.

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 will trust our congressional investigative committee and judicial system to determine who should be held responsible.

How will you promote putting aside partisan politics to address complex issues in Congress?

I am leading a new wave of leaders who treat partisan politics as passé. We need to do this for sensible leadership to emerge. As an Independent non-partisan, which represents most Alaskans, I can steer the conversation away from political parties to focus on common ground by negotiating rather than being beholden to party leaders. It is vital to make partisan polarization a thing of the past. We all agree on sensible solutions more than we realize. My Alaskan, independent, congenial, and unflinching values will aid me in accomplishing a unified Congress. By highlighting our value add to the union, I can make DC Pro-Alaska.

What should the federal government be doing to curb inflation and strengthen the U.S. economy?

The cost of living is already too high, and with inflation causing prices to soar, we need leaders representing all generations who will curb inflation and take us into the future to build prosperity for all Alaskans. We need to address the cost of energy, housing, and food -- the biggest drivers of inflation.

The federal government should enact and expediently implement sound monetary policy that reduces both core and current high inflation levels, lower the high costs of living and fortify our weak economy. Reduce the price of energy and fuel by allowing us to develop our resources, particularly Alaskan oil & gas. We must focus on monetary tightening and demonstrate disciplined government spending to balance the budget. Energy and food are some of the biggest drivers of inflation, and we must produce more here in the US to reduce our dependency on foreign imports.

Would you support ending the filibuster to make it easier to pass legislation? Would you support any carve outs to the filibuster for key issues such as abortion access?

Proposing ending the filibuster is a myopic strategy. If both sides cannot agree on legislation, it’s a failure of partisan politics we must overcome.

Public trust in the Supreme Court is declining. What do you think should be done to improve trust in the court?

Trust will increase when the court decisions are non-partisan and reflective of the vox populi. Augment voter turnout to elect officials who will truly represent people’s voices.

Do you think Congress should pass legislation to limit or protect abortion access?

Yes, Congress should pass legislation to protect abortion access while increasing transparency and accountability of federally funded institutions providing abortions. I believe in liberty, privacy and freedom for all Alaskans and all Americans. This includes the rights of individuals to decide what they should do with their own body, for their own health. As a Senator, I, Shoshana Gungurstein, will promptly sponsor a bill to codify into law a woman’s right to privacy and access to contraception and abortion.

What specific actions, if any, should the U.S. government take to curb gun violence?

Encouraging responsible gun ownership including background checks and red flag laws can curb gun violence. Responsible ownership is a hallmark of most Alaskan gun owners and our way of life should be recognized as a paradigm for the Lower 48.

How do you think new resource development projects in Alaska should be balanced with the interests of environmental protection and climate change mitigation?

Alaska can and must develop its vast resources in an environmentally feasible manner. Pre-feasibility assessments to measure community, climate, environmental and cultural impacts of every project are key. Our environmental stewardship approach to resource development projects should be emphasized and reflected in the rigorous environmental reviews we conduct, incorporating local community comments and involvement. By developing an energy and resource policy for the state and keeping it updated we can forge a balanced path of development and environmental protection. We Alaskans take pride in our biodiversity and natural resources, we continue to mitigate harmful CO2 emissions, and protect our biodiversity and fisheries while also making sure we can develop our natural resources responsibly. Congress should address climate change across the board with laws set for all states, but Alaska should not be singled out as the one state where the federal government limits development.

Do you believe the federal government is well positioned to continue to address the COVID-19 pandemic and other future pandemics that may emerge?

Sadly, we are not even close to being well-positioned. While we are better prepared than most other economically developing countries, the overall standards of handling public health demand significant improvement. This would start with timely, accurate, and stronger scientific consensus based, data driven, cohesive communication with the public.

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?

Since funding is slated to be distributed by grants and federal agencies, we have to make sure that the terms are manageable, and the projects are the most crucial and beneficial for current and future growth. We must make sure there are no roadblocks in the disbursement of the critically needed infrastructure funds at no additional expense to the state. Focus should remain on bringing fiber optic lines to our rural communities, building crucial roads and bridges where communities need them, and improving our marine highways and ferries. Autonomy for development on Native lands must remain in the hands of Native communities. A crucial aspect of project overall cost is operating and maintaining new infrastructure. This operational budget must be factored in and not paid for by state funds that will invariably dip into the PFD.

Should transgender athletes be allowed to compete in sports according to the gender with which they identify?

This is a decision for individual sport councils and federations. In boxing, there are weight divisions to encourage fair competition among athletes. Applying the same principles of fair play and equitable competition, sport councils should be able to decide who, based on physical attributes, should be allowed to compete in a given cohort.

What should be done, if anything, to change federal immigration policies?

Our current policies have not curbed illegal immigration and it’s crucial we update them and pivot towards development of better federal immigration policies and programs. We should allow safe, legal immigration while limiting illegal immigration. In many instances, the employment demand is driving illegal immigration, with many of these people being good, hardworking folks trying to come here. We need workers and we should welcome those who want to come and be productive legally. Thoughtful immigration policy addressing the shortage of skilled labor will help reduce wage inflation overall.

What is the country’s biggest national security threat?

Inefficient leadership.

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?

Climate change is not political, we feel it every day here in Alaska. I will strive to make Alaska the Silicon Valley of renewable energy and mitigate our emissions from energy production. We will be the example to the rest of the US as to how to develop and grow in an environmentally feasible manner. We will lead the US in using cleaner methods of resource development and improve our climate change mitigation strategy. I trust the US will lead the charge for the world in mitigating emissions and reducing the impact of climate change while strongly persuading China and India to do substantially better in their sovereign efforts to curb emissions that are affecting our climate and the health of our oceans. As the only candidate with a renewable energy sector background, I will work to achieve these goals in record time.

What other important issue would you like to discuss?

I believe in term limits for our elected federal officials; three terms for Senate and five terms for Congress. We must augment childcare provisions and benefits. Foster care should have more accountability and funds from the federal government. Politics needs to be kept out of education. There needs to be federal programs which reduce homelessness and supplement the state’s financial efforts to address mental health issues. We must address the needs of our honorable veteran population which is one of the highest in the country per capita. Wasteful spending by the federal and state governments must stop, as well as ending the practice of dipping into the PFD to balance the budget. Ultimately, I will work towards making Alaska recession proof, championing environmental stewardship, and negotiating a sensible balance of regulation and support from the federal government, so that we Alaskans have greater autonomy to address the socioeconomic crises affecting urban and rural communities.