Debate for the State: U.S. Senate candidates debate issues important to Alaska
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Candidates for Alaska’s open U.S. Senate seat participated in the Debate for the State Thursday evening. The three candidates running for U.S. Senate were pressed with questions about issues currently facing Alaska.
The candidates vying for the Senate seat are current Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), Kelly Tshibaka (R) and Pat Chesbro (D). Buzz Kelley (R) has withdrawn his candidacy after coming in fourth in the Aug. 16 primary.
The Debate for the State was hosted by Alaska’s News Source, Alaska Public Media, and KTOO, with Alaska Public Media News Director Lori Townsend and Alaska’s News Source Managing Editor Mike Ross serving as moderators. Alaska’s News Source Assistant News Director Rebecca Palsha asked candidates questions provided via social media.
Roe v. Wade
Candidates were first asked about their thoughts on codifying abortion rights in Roe v. Wade.
“I do support codification of Roe v. Wade,” Murkowski said. “I recognize that we cannot go backwards in time 50 years when it comes to a woman’s right to determine her own reproductive health and health care. I also recognize that abortion should not be without limitation.”
Murkowski said that she introduced a bipartisan effort that ensures limitations, including a “conscience provision” for providers who are not willing to perform abortions.
“I’m pro life,” Tshibaka said. “I also think that we need to make birth control more accessible.”
Tshibaka said that she did not believe any effort by Congress to codify Roe v. Wade would be upheld by the Supreme Court. Tshibaka noted that she believes birth control should be available over-the-counter and through the mail.
“I really am pro-choice,” Chesbro said. “I think it needs to be up to the discretion of the individual, not anyone else. I think it has to be a very difficult decision and I think we need to let people make those decisions on their own.”
Candidates were next asked about Americans’ faith in democracy.
Tshibaka noted that as the Department of Administration Commissioner, she audited the Division of Elections in 2019.
“I truly support state-based systems based in rooted transparency and accountability where we know that we have one Alaskan that can vote and that that vote is counted,” Tshibaka said.
“I am wary of the things we hear around the country of people who are intimidating people,” Chesbro said. “The system cannot be safe if everyone does not have access to it.”
“Everything that we can do to make sure that our electoral systems are fair transparent free and accessible,” Murkowski said. “Anything that would work to prohibit that, I think causes into question the fairness of elections.”
Candidates were also asked about how they would work to protect LGBTQ youth.
“I believe we need to ensure that dignity and safety and rights of all Alaskans and we need to do that without jeopardizing and undermining the dignity and safety and rights of other Alaskans,” Tshibaka said.
Tshibaka said she would support separate sports teams for trans athletes, as opposed to allowing them to compete with the gender they identify with.
“I would support the LGBTQ group forever,” Chesbro said. “As a principal, all kids were important to me and I’m horrified that anyone would try to harm children.”
“I would absolutely support the rights of LGBTQ, transgender. There should be no discrimination of anyone at any time, that’s how I operate,” Murkowski said. “This debate that is out there that is bullying and villainizing, villainizing young people at a time in their life when that is highly destructive when people like Kelly Tshibaka preached conversion therapy that is not helpful.”
Candidates were asked by West Anchorage High School sophomore Edison Wallace-Moyer about school safety.
Chesbro recalled that she was a school principal when the Columbine school shooting happened.
“Let’s keep our guns safe,” Chesbro said. “Let’s make sure we lock them up so that people cannot make a quick decision.”
Murkowski said that she was part of a bipartisan effort to pass the Safer Communities Act.
“It is not the end all and be all, but it does help to address more security for schools more mental health help for our kids.”
“As a mom of five, I share your concerns that we keep them safe in schools. I would like to see us fund more school counselors and mental health counselors for our youth. I think that would really help,” Tshibaka said. “I don’t support more restrictions on law-abiding citizens who have a second amendment right to protect themselves and that right shall not be infringed. I would not have voted for the extreme Biden gun control.”
Assault weapons ban
During the lightning round, candidates were asked if they would support a ban on assault-style firearms, noting that a previous ban has since expired.
“I do not support banning those weapons,” Tshibaka said. “I think that the ban should stay expired. I support the second amendment.”
“I think we should ban the sale of them,” Chesbro said. “I think it worked before. I think there’s no purpose of them except for killing people, and having a family member who has personally been murdered I’m against murder.”
“I do not support a ban on assault weapons,” Murkowski said.
Candidates were asked about high prices of heating oil and gas, and how they would work to lower energy costs if elected.
“The incumbent has voted for radical nominees that are actually driving this problem,” Tshibaka said. “Having worked back there for 16 years overseeing federal agencies there’s a lot we can do to get the bureaucracy to work for us instead of against us.”
“We need to do renewables. We need to find what is the area what is the best thing in the area and it could be the nuclear mini-plants that they’re talking about,” Chesbro said. “We have a lot of things going on. We need to get this energy to people and it needs to be affordable.”
“Energy is something that I have focused so much of my time in the Senate on. It is not just a problem that we’re dealing with now,” Murkowski said. “It’s even more accentuated because of what’s happening in Ukraine with Russia but our reality is unless we are producing more as a country we will be beholden to the prices that are set by OPEC.”
Murkowski said that President Joe Biden’s administration is making mistakes that are putting Alaska’s ability to extract resources at a disadvantage, and said she would push back against those specific policies.
Candidates were also asked if they support a constitutional convention.
“I oppose a constitutional convention. We have a good constitution. It was thought up by very smart people,” Chesbro said. “I think we have an amendment process. We should use it if we need to amend our constitution.”
“I oppose moving to a constitutional convention. I agree with Pat on this one. We have demonstrated that we’ve got a process that works,” Murkowski said.
“I support it,” Tshibaka said. “Government’s of the people by the people for the people I’m not afraid of the people of Alaska. I think it’s important to remember when we formed our const we didn’t include very many Alaska Native voices at all they were excluded from the process.”
Candidate Patricia “Pat” Chesbro has lived in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough since 1974, and currently resides in Wasilla. Chesbro has taught at Palmer High School and served as Superintendent of schools for the Mat-Su Borough School District. She has also been Assistant Professor and Interim Dean of University of Alaska Anchorage’s College of Education.
Kelly Tshibaka grew up in Southcentral Alaska and is a graduate of Harvard Law School. Tshibaka was the Department of Administration Commissioner from 2019-2021. Tshibaka previously worked in Washington D.C.
Lisa Murkowski has served in the U.S. Senate since she was appointed by her father, Gov. Frank Murkowski. Before she was appointed to the U.S. Senate, Murkowski served in the Alaska House of Representatives.
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