ASUAF hosts Fairbanks electoral town hall

The candidates present for the town hall. From left to right: Tim Lamkin, Grier Hopkins, Ed Alexander, Billy Toien, Van Lawrence, Adam Wool, Rep. Scott Kawasaki, and Bart LeBon. Not pictured: Sen. Mark Begich.

Though the town hall was small in attendance it was overall hailed a success.

With the midterm election just around the corner, ASUAF hosted a town hall on Oct. 24, allowing the Fairbanks community to ask questions of those running for office. However, the town hall lacked the presence of Sen. Mike Dunleavy, Sen. Pete Kelly, Kathryn Dodge, Rep. Steve Thompson, Rep. Tammie Wilson, Jim Sackett, Kevin McKinley, and Rep. David Talerico.

Over the course of 1 ½ hours, various hot-button questions of concern to the residents of Alaska, such as the Permanent Fund Dividend, affordable education, preservation of Native Alaskan culture and the environment were brought up. These questions showed the myriad of concerns that Alaskans have and the responses were just as myriad, some crystal clear, and others more difficult to discern.

“I gotta say this was an excellent event. Although I am not a Fairbanks citizen and I voted in Anchorage. It was really interesting to be able to understand what is affecting Fairbanks and the community, what’s affecting the community that I’m currently living in,” said Emma Ashlock, a current University of Alaska Fairbanks student.

Rep. Scott Kawasaki

That sentiment was echoed by UAF alum Christina Sinclair, “It went very well. I really like that UAF and the students are getting more involved in politics because it is very important to us. I recently graduated and getting involved in politics I see how it can go hand in hand. We have a very diverse community here especially at UAF and we need to make sure that the students are protected and the best way to do that is with legislation.”

 

The event featured the gubernatorial candidates, state house and representative seats. It allowed the population of not only the university but also of the greater interior a chance to ask questions of those they will elect to represent them on Nov. 6. The chance to come in direct contact with their representatives allows a more human approach to a political system that, more often than not, doesn’t allow the people to meet their representatives.

Grier Hopkins (right) and Tim Lamkin (left).

When asked how the event went from the coordinating side, the overall opinion from Daniel Vaziri, the public relations director for ASUAF was that the town hall was, indeed, a success:

 

“[The town hall went] Surprisingly very well, because we were expecting more people but after Walker dropped out then no one knows what to do, everyone’s confused. But with Audrey, Bernard, Peter, Dawson, they all were making calls until 10pm till the Wood Center closed trying to get as many candidates as they can, being as fair to everyone as possible, organizing it […] But I think it went very well because we still have candidates talking to people right now they showed up on time,” Daniel Vaziri, the public relations director for ASUAF.

Gubernatorial candidates Sen. Mark Begich (left) and Billy Toien (right).

Though the turnout was small for the town hall, the ability to watch democracy in action was invaluable, even with the swath with candidates who weren’t present. Which, in and of itself is telling of the priorities of those who chose to be at an event to earn money for their campaign than to talk to the grassroots supporters of politics, and the future of politics, the young people.