Story last updated at 4:13 p.m. Thursday, July 25, 2002

Candidates to debate in public forum Aug. 1
Staff Report
photo: news
Drew Scalzi  
Homer-area voters will have an opportunity for an up-close look at their legislative candidates next week, when incumbent Rep. Drew Scalzi and challenger Paul Seaton go head to head in a public debate.

Scalzi and Seaton, both Republicans, will square off in the Aug. 27 primary. They are the only candidates for the state House District 35 seat, which represents Homer, Kachemak City, Anchor Point, Seldovia, Cooper Landing, Moose Pass and Seward. In the absence of a candidate mounting a write-in campaign, the primary winner gets a free pass to the Legislature.

photo: news
Paul Seaton  
Sen. Alan Austerman, R-Kodiak, whose district now includes Homer, is running unopposed. He did not return several phone calls inviting him to participate.

Party affiliation aside, both candidates say there is plenty of difference between them. They hope to highlight those differences in front of voters during the debate.

"There's no question that the two of us have different philosophies and priorities," said Seaton, who has accused Scalzi of ducking accountability by participating in closed-door caucuses in Juneau. "I want voters to know what my philosophy is. I want open government, I want the electorate to know where I'm coming from."

Scalzi defended his record during his first term in Juneau, including his work with the Fiscal Policy Caucus, a bipartisan group of legislators that sought a solution to the state's budget woes.

"I'm running on the same things I've been running on for years," said Scalzi, who served eight years on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly prior to being elected to state office two years ago. "I'm a consensus builder. I've gotten reasonable legislation through and gotten the different parties together on important legislation.

"I have an excellent history of getting people together and making things happen."

Seaton, a commercial fisherman and lifelong Republican who has never held elected office, said he has no animosity toward Scalzi, who he said has not been responsive to his constituents.

"I like Drew," Seaton said. " I have no personality problems with Drew, just representation problems."

Scalzi said he has always worked hard to be accessible to constituents and has kept an open mind about ideas he does not always agree with, including those presented to him by Seaton.

"I've always chosen to debate fairly," Scalzi said. "I think (Paul's) been patently false with some of the positions I've taken and definitions of legislation I've put forward."

The forum, organized jointly by local media, will be held in Homer City Council chambers beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 1. Candidates will answer a series of questions from a four-person panel as well as from the audience about issues facing the state. They will also be given an opportunity to question each other.

Filling out the panel will be Mark Kelsey, editor and general manager of the Homer News, John Crowder, reporter for the Homer Tribune, Tim White, news director for Peninsula Radio Group, and Jennifer Mitchell, news director for KBBI-AM 890, which will broadcast the debate live.