Despite just one name on the ballot for Senate District O, it’s at least a three-way race.
Senator Peter Micciche won a tight primary campaign against political novice Ron Gillham, prompting Gillham to launch a write-in campaign centered around providing full Permanent Fund Dividend checks to all Alaskans. But there’s also the major election year issue of salmon habitat protection which has also divided voters and prompted another political newcomer, Willow King to launch her own write-in campaign focused on ballot measure one, among other things. Senator Micciche spoke with KDLL’s Shaylon Cochran about a sometimes contentious campaign season and how he hopes his outreach this fall will win him another term.
On a surprisingly crowded field of candidates:
“We have changed our focus from the traditional campaign of the ads and the mailers to getting out and providing an opportunity for every person in the district to come talk to us. We’ve had town halls in every community, we’ve had hundreds of smaller group meetings. What we’re trying to do is get to those people that just don’t feel comfortable attending the typical meeting.
Last year, I had 32 public meetings, but it’s the same 150-200 people that show up, and I think those are largely supporters. We need to get to the folks that have heard, this election season, things that just are not reality and try to get them to come to a meeting, talk about the issues, talk about how things have been done in Juneau; help them understand that even some of the folks they’re supporting, if they’re not supporting me, we have the exact same record because of the way things are done. I’ve always been focused on getting a dividend, I’ve always been tough on crime, trying to get the best outcome. I’ve always been working just for them.”
On party ties to less popular candidates upticket:
“You’ve got the Alaska Republican party putting out the slate because that’s who they support. We won our primaries, we have a similar philosophy about the party platform and the individual planks. Some of those individuals have very different ideas on the way to go. But when you think about the millions that have been spent on a message that may or may not be anchored in reality or the absolute truth. It’s campaign season so people have a spin on different things. There’s only one set of facts, then there are the ways that people can spin them. It’s been very challenging when on every radio station, digital, television, has a message when you’re trying to counter that with an individual who’s had that pounded into their brain for months, or they came out of church and there was a soggy card on their windshield, it’s difficult. It takes more time.
It’s difficult to be an incumbent during difficult times. I want the same things that the vast majority of my constituents want, it’s just hard to get them to realize in order to get there, we have to change major segments of our law. In this case, the constitution. If they want that guarantee of a dividend, that requires a constitutional change. There was no other way to get there before. There just wasn’t the votes...It’s a challenging balance in the legislature, and folks need to realize that we have to change some laws if they want a full dividend, which is the number one issue this election cycle. But they also have to focus on the fact that there will be other impacts to a full dividend going forward.
On running against two write-in candidates
“What I learned from the primary, and from this election cycle, is I have to find a way to sit down with those constituents (for whom) public meetings aren’t working. Newsletters aren’t working. How do I get them to come up to me and say ‘Micciche, I’m mad and this is why’ and have that conversation in small groups or with individuals where we can talk about those issues, because there’s clearly a group of people that are unhappy with my performance. And I think if we can have those conversations, we can understand each other; how things are in Juneau versus the impacts at home and how we can find solutions that make them feel more represented. There’s a group of folks in two camps that I’m going to reach out to.
I represent everyone in District O and it doesn’t matter if they’re the furthest left or the furthest right or right smack dab in the middle. I want to hear from them and work that out. I do, for many reasons, feel that I’m the best choice. I have a background in almost every one of these industries. I’ve proven that I can bring people to the finish line on things that matter. When you make an action in the legislature, you have a record. That makes it easy to attack someone if you don’t take the time to realize, wait a minute, this guy Micciche is the one who passed the first new criminal justice stuff four years ago on restitution because he is tough on crime.
They get so often soured on things because people are poking at you, as opposed to them engaging in that’s more productive. So if anyone doubts that I’m there to listen, at this point, with all the meetings that we’ve had through the years and the meetings we’ve had since the primary, I don’t know anyone who publishes (their) cell phone number (398-6759). My voicemail fills up by noon every day. I try to clear it out, it fills up again by 6 p.m. I want you to call me and talk to me as opposed to believing some of the campaign nonsense you hear on the trail.”