ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska’s state Senate President will be challenged for her Anchorage seat in the upcoming state Republican primary.
Cathy Giessel will face challenger Roger Holland in the Aug. 18 primary election, Alaska Public Media reported Tuesday.
Holland criticizes Giessel’s leadership of the Senate, while she says her approach reflects the importance of compromise in governing.
Giessel is a lifelong Alaska resident who has served in the Senate for 10 years with two years as Senate president. She has helped shaped energy policy as the longtime chair of the Senate Resources Committee.
Giessel said experience will be paramount in addressing the state’s budget difficulties.
“The state of Alaska is facing perhaps the most challenging time financially that we’ve faced since statehood,” she said. “It’s a time when experience and knowledge is critical to finding a productive path forward.”
More budget cuts are necessary to close a gap of more than $2 billion, Giessel said, adding that cuts proposed last year by Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy were not appropriate.
Giessel has been criticized for enforcement of the binding caucus, which requires members to vote with leadership on procedural votes and the budget. Giessel said anyone is free to leave the caucus, while residents benefit from lawmakers being able to compromise.
“The wakeup call I believe happens when people arrive in Juneau and discover there are 59 other people, all of whom have different interests than theirs,” she said.
Holland, who has lived in Alaska for 11 years, said Giessel has lost touch with “what her job should be as a Republican senator in a Republican state with Republican majorities in the House and Senate and a Republican governor.”
Holland wants larger spending cuts, but said he would need to make a closer study of Dunleavy’s previous budget proposal.
Holland said he was not familiar with the details of the budget’s two largest pieces, including transferring more than $400 million in oil property taxes from municipalities to the state government and cutting state aid to public schools by a quarter.
Holland supports drawing more from the Alaska Permanent Fund’s earnings reserve account for the next year or two than is currently outlined under state law.
Holland said he opposes a binding caucus, even if ending the practice leads to policy results with which he disagrees.