Dunleavy declines to answer candidate questionnaire, later Walker also declines

July 25, 2022 4:36 pm

A voter in Alaska’s special U.S. House primary election drops their ballot into a box on Saturday, June 11, 2022, as a poll worker observes. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy has declined to answer written questionnaires from the Alaska Beacon and the Anchorage Daily News that were intended to increase public understanding of candidates’ positions as they compete in November’s election. 

Dunleavy’s campaign invited a Beacon reporter to interview the governor. 

In response to Dunleavy’s decision, independent former Gov. Bill Walker also declined to submit his answers. 

Former state Rep. Les Gara, a Democrat, provided answers to the questionnaire, but the campaigns for the other candidates for governor who raised at least $3,000 through July 15 – Republican Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce and Republican state Rep. Christopher Kurka – both said they hadn’t seen the questionnaire and asked the Beacon to resend it on Monday. 

Dunleavy’s campaign informed the Beacon of the decision over the weekend and announced it on Monday. 

“While the questionnaires are helpful to the public for relatively unknown candidates, Gov. Dunleavy, Bill Walker, and Les Gara have lengthy public records that every member of the media can reference in their coverage of the 2022 elections,” an email from campaign spokesperson Andrew Jensen said. 

Walker’s campaign said that when an incumbent refuses to answer questions, they disadvantage candidates who do. 

Gara said Dunleavy wants to hide his views from the public. Walker and Gara issued a joint statement saying Dunleavy is disrespecting Alaskans and that the public has a right to know where candidates stand and what they’ll do if elected.

Gara had responded to the questionnaire before it was clear that Dunleavy wouldn’t, but said he would have answered it regardless of whether the other candidates did. Walker’s campaign didn’t submit answers after Dunleavy’s said he wouldn’t.

The Alaska Beacon plans to use the answers from candidates to inform its coverage of the campaigns. It also plans to publish the answers. It sent its questionnaires to the listed addresses of state and federal candidates on this year’s ballot. It sent the questions by email on July 13 and gave a deadline of Sunday, July 24, to respond. 

The questionnaires were developed using input from members of the public. Beginning on June 24, the Beacon asked readers to say what they would like to hear candidates discuss as they compete for votes. Over the following 10 days, Alaskans posed more than 100 questions and raised issues they wanted to hear from the candidates on. 

By not answering the Beacon’s questionnaire, candidates also aren’t answering questions from voters. It’s unclear whether the same candidates would be willing to explain their positions to the public once elected. And members of the public have been consistent in demanding that they want to know where candidates stand on the issues in a way that’s clear and easy to compare. 

While the public can examine candidates’ records, their current positions may be different from ones they previously held. For example, it isn’t clear whether Dunleavy currently supports the same formula to set Permanent Fund dividends that he proposed last year. A clear statement could inform the public, and a questionnaire allows candidates to use their own words.

For the record, here are the questions the Beacon asked the candidates for governor. The first five required yes-or-no answers. The next 10 questions allowed for open-ended answers. 

Do you support a constitutional convention?

Should the Alaska Constitution be amended to protect the roughly $30 billion in the Permanent Fund that currently isn’t constitutionally protected? 

Should Alaska spend public money to ensure a natural gas pipeline is built? 

Do you think the state prioritizes commercial and sport fishing over subsistence fishing?

Would you allow a bill limiting transgender athletes to become law with or without your signature?

How should the state of Alaska set the amount of the Permanent Fund dividend each year?

What’s Alaska’s biggest need, and how would you address it?

What policies and laws should Alaska follow with regard to abortion?

How should the state reduce the threat of gun violence and mass shootings?

How much should a governor’s faith or religion determine state law and policy?

What should the state do to improve retention of public employees, including teachers?

What does an ideal state ferry system look like?

What, if any, changes does the state need to make to ensure voting is equitable and secure?

What do you intend to do about the poor returns of salmon in the Yukon and Kuskokwim drainages, and what are the main causes of the problems?

What, if any, changes should be made to Alaska’s school funding system?

The headline has been changed to reflect Walker’s decision. And the story has been updated to clarify Gara’s position on filling out the questionnaire.

Editor’s note: Walker’s campaign submitted the answers from Walker and his running mate Heidi Drygas on Tuesday, the day after this story was published.

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Andrew Kitchenman
Andrew Kitchenman

Andrew Kitchenman has covered state government in Alaska since 2016, serving as the Capitol reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO before joining the Alaska Beacon. Before this, he covered state and local governments on the East Coast – primarily in New Jersey – for more than 15 years. He enjoys reading, watching movies and walking around Anchorage.