Senate candidates join Anchorage Chamber of Commerce forum

Published: Oct. 10, 2022 at 5:06 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Candidates for the United States Senate seat Democrat Pat Chesbro and Republican Kelly Tshibaka joined incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski today at the lunchtime Make It Monday forum presented by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce.

The forum was hosted by Chugach Electric’s Communications Manager Julie Hasquet, and questions presented to the candidates came from the chamber’s Legislative Committee or from submissions to the chamber website.

Each candidate was given a chance to introduce themselves to the audience and make a short statement before jumping into answering questions.

Topics of discussion ranged from the war on Ukraine to Alaska’s opportunity to hold a constitutional convention.

“The end game is we need to be there for Ukraine, with Ukraine,” Murkowski said. “I think we’re seeing that on the ground as they are prevailing against all odds. It has taken resources, it has taken sacrifices from the United States and from other countries, but think about the sacrifices that the people in Ukraine are making in the defense of freedom.”

Tshibaka’s concerns about Ukraine stemmed from the role energy has played both in the conflict and in European politics since the February invasion of Ukraine.

“The best way forward for us is to use strong diplomatic reasoning to exercise force on Putin to stop his energy dominance,” Tshibaka said. “We are the people who put him in his place when Biden greenlit Nord Stream II and if we were to become energy dependent and energy dominant, again, they think that the global game will change.”

A topic of concern for many Alaskans is the possibility of an upcoming constitutional convention. Alaskans will decide in November whether or not to review the state’s foundational document.

Murkowski and Chesbro oppose the idea of a constitutional convention, favoring instead the use of amendments to alter the constitution.

“I believe, pretty strongly that we have a process in place through our legislature to address those changes that we would like to see made,” Murkowski said. “And that is working through a constitutional amendment.”

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R) speaks at the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce forum on Oct. 10, 2022.

Chesbro echoed Murkowski’s sentiment that the constitution’s current functionality is sufficient for Alaskans.

“I too will vote no on the Constitutional Convention,” Chesbro said. “I believe that we have a strong constitution. And we have a way to amend it.”

Tshibaka, however, expressed her support for the right of Alaskans to hold a constitutional convention.

“We believe government’s of the people, by the people, for the people, and we have a provision that allows us — the people — to examine the Constitution and decide if there’s any changes that need to be made,” Tshibaka said. “I’m not at all afraid of Alaskans taking the opportunity to examine the Constitution and then put proposals before the people for us to vote it up or down and say we do or don’t want those changes.”

Tshibaka responded that she was “very afraid of the legislature at the federal or the local level” and their ability to “unilaterally” amend the constitution, preferring that voters decide when the document needs alterations.

“If you want to amend it, then amend it, but we need to use the processes we have in place, either technical amendments in the Legislature or the people amending it through a constitutional convention,” Tshibaka said. “But I’m not okay, by amending it through statute from congressmen and senators who decide things need to change when the people are the ones deciding it.”

A topic of concern to many Alaskans is abortion access in the wake of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe vs. Wade earlier this year.

Chesbro states that abortion access “needs to be codified into federal law.”

“A person’s reproductive choices belong to that person,” Chesbro said. “They don’t belong to someone sitting somewhere else deciding for them.”

Murkowski stated that not only did she support codifying Roe vs. Wade, but recognized the political discussion around women’s healthcare and reproductive rights is evolving.

“We can’t take them back 50 years, we cannot threaten a woman with the prospect that contraception — something that we believe was resolved decades and decades ago — is now on the table,” Murkowski said.

Tshibaka however remained more concerned with claims that the incumbent “voted multiple times to allow for abortions for even when the baby’s coming off the birth canal,” — an incredibly rare procedure that politicians have referred to as a “partial birth” or “late term” abortion — and expressed her intent to suppress abortion access.

“I would absolutely sign Lindsey Graham’s bill to limit [abortion] nationwide, somewhere in the second trimester,” Tshibaka said. “That still allows for choice, for someone to decide before that.”