Alaska in Brief

Q&A with Alaska Senate District R candidate Bert Williams

By: - July 28, 2022 12:34 am
The Senate chambers are seen at the Alaska State Capitol on Friday, May 13, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

The Senate chambers are seen at the Alaska State Capitol on Friday, May 13, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

The Alaska Beacon asked Alaska’s legislative candidates to answer a 15-question survey about their positions on a variety of issues. Read all of their responses here. Answers have not been edited.

Bert Williams, Republican candidate from Fairbanks

Yes/No questions

The Alaska Constitution allows legislators to call a constitutional convention at any time. Are you interested in calling a convention?


Would you be willing to join a coalition majority in which the opposite political party controls a majority of seats?


Should new public employees have access to a pension?


Should the state take over the federal permitting process that regulates construction in wetlands?


Should Juneteenth be a state holiday?


Open-ended questions

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

The permanent fund should be paid out based on the current formula, with the legislature permanently barred from drawing on the permanent fund to pay for state operations. The permanent fund is the money Alaskans get for allowing outside interests to profit off its immense natural resources, primarily oil, while paying some of the highest fuel prices in the country. Anything less than the established formula is an insult, and even at that rate it is a paltry reward for being closer to a banana republic in economic function than any other state.

What’s the biggest need in your district, and how would you address it?

The most obvious problem facing district R is the massive increases in food and energy costs. District R covers a large part of the state, including a good number of rural communities, and increases in the cost to live is going to hit all of these communities harder than the more urban parts of Alaska.

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

Taxpayer funding of abortions, including institutions such as Planned Parenthood, is a disgrace. The availability of cheap/free abortions directly removes individuals from the responsibilities and consequences associated with sex, resulting in poor decision-making and socio-cultural degeneration. Should abortions be banned outright? Probably not: instances of rape and abortion will never be eradicated. At the same time, abortions in the late part of the second trimester and beyond are the killing of a living human being. If a third party kills a developing child without the mother’s consent it can be prosecuted as murder or manslaughter, implying that granting abortion rights is granting women the right to murder their own child. A society that grants the right to kill children is a sick one, no doubt about it.

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

The hard truth regarding mass shootings is that the majority of shooters were fatherless. The problem of fatherlessness also applies to crime and drug use as a whole – outcomes are worse for children raised without a father, regardless of the child’s sex. While the additional financial and physical benefits available to single mothers almost certainly came from a place of kindness they have incentivized the removal of the father from the family unit in some cases, and we see the results today. Changing the benefits structure to incentivize including the father figure and keeping the family unit intact would not only help reduce violence of all types, it would improve average childhood outcomes across the board.

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

If an individual is elected because of the rigidity of their spiritual beliefs and they were prevented from acting on those beliefs it would be an infringement on the rights of the individuals who voted them into office. Therefore, there should not be restrictions on faith or religion motivated law and policy.

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

Cut the useless administrative fat, use some of the savings to pay the remaining essential employees more, and save the rest. Government employees make up an outsized portion of total employment in the state, and administrators make up too much of the cost of our school system.

What does an ideal state ferry system look like?

Ideally the state ferry system looks like an expanded highway system. Barring this, as not all communities can be reached by road, the ports should be managed by the state and ferry services should be private. If a public ferry system cannot be maintained through cashflow generated by users then it is subsidized by all the individuals in the state who do not use it. A long term, functionally permanent, subsidy of the ferry system by the rest of the state would be unfair to those Alaskans who do not use the ferry system.

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

Paper ballots that are linked to the individual who cast the vote, with redundant hand counting, is the only way to ensure an equitable and secure voting process. Electronic voting and anonymous ballots will never be secure, and when it comes to voting a lack of security means a lack of equity.

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?

I won’t profess to know the main causes of poor salmon returns, but I will speak to what I believe is the most likely cause. The most likely culprit is commercial overharvest. If 2021 marked itself as the third-highest commercial harvest on record from 1975-2021, at 233.8 million salmon (~260 for every resident in the state), while the overall salmon returns in-river are decreasing, then the problem seems obvious. If we were to entertain a hypothetical and ban commercial salmon fishing then the salmon would recover – this is not a statement a rational individual can argue against. On the other hand, it is clear that coastal communities have an economic dependence on commercial fishing. Despite this, massive amounts of foreign (ie non-Alaskan) labor is used by the commercial fishing industry. Additionally, a number of the fishing vessels and processing plants are owned by individuals and corporations that are not Alaskan.

Alaska’s fisheries are a gift, and if we allow non-Alaskan individuals and companies to profit off these fisheries, employing primarily non-Alaskan labor, then they are a wasted gift. In these situations we are giving away our fish for the minimum possible benefit, to the detriment of the Alaskan people. If our fish are as precious a gift as the permanent fund then attach riders requiring the owners and operators of a vessel, direct marketer or otherwise, to live the majority of the year in Alaska – time spent fishing not included. Require the same of the board of directors, major shareholders, and upper management of any corporation involved in processing or export. There is no reason non-Alaskans should be profiting off our fish, period. If this results in less outside fisheries investment and smaller commercial harvests, so what? We will certainly catch and process fewer fish – and all the proceeds will go back into the Alaskan economy, while greater pass-through rates in the rivers will result in more fish for future generations.

What constitutional amendments, if any, do you support?

None at this time.

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James Brooks
James Brooks

James Brooks is a longtime Alaska reporter, having previously worked at the Anchorage Daily News, Juneau Empire, Kodiak Mirror and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. A graduate of Virginia Tech, he is married to Caitlyn Ellis, owns a house in Juneau and has a small sled dog named Barley. He can be contacted at [email protected].