Thursday night Washington U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D) popped into Anchorage for a quick visit.
It was a low profile appearance for a Senator who could have a could have a huge impact on the future of our state. If Democrats retake control of the Senate, Cantwell would be positioned to replace Alaska’s Sen. Lisa Murkowski as Chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee giving her great sway over the resource issues that largely drive Alaska’s economy and unique lifestyle.
The Midnight Sun was able to get about 10 minutes of the Senator’s time to find out why was here and what she thinks about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, the upcoming elections, and much more.
Here is our interview:
Welcome to Alaska, Senator. What brings you to here today?
I’m here today to campaign for Hillary Clinton and attend an event of people who are supporting her here in anchorage. I am excited to know people here are so excited about her campaign.
Why should an Alaska kid like me vote for Hillary Clinton?
I think this really is about the economic future of our country. She said it in the debate, she isn’t for the trickle down strategy. She is for growing the economy from the middle out. I think this is an important concept and the right kind of economic strategy for our country moving forward, everything from equal pay for equal work to investing in education to job training to skill the future workforce. I think Alaskans care about their future economy and she is someone who would be a good leader for that.
Alaska has gone for the Republican in every presidential election since 1968. Why shouldn’t Alaska continue that trend and vote for the Republican nominee Donald Trump this time?
This is a very unusual presidential election. I think there are a lot of people who are looking at the choice on the Republican side and have been offended by a lot of things that have been said. But when I look at it, this is a situation about how we are going to build an economy for the future. And I get it, he has been involved in building things, but I think she is more focused on building an economy that works for everybody. I think Alaskans get that.
What would Alaska’s place in that economy be?
To me, you want to make the right investments, and she has talked about having an infrastructure bill in the first 100 days. I think she is serious about that. She is serious about looking at all places in our economy for that infrastructure investment. There are a lot of things here in Alaska that could benefit from that.
Alaska has some unique infrastructure needs. What could an infrastructure bill in the first 100 days mean specifically for us in Alaska?
We did a transportation bill a year ago that wasn’t as robust as we would all like to see. We’d like to see a major investment in that. What is good for Alaska is usually good for Washington as well. We have this regional economy that is a lot about the economic development that happens here, so getting investments in infrastructure would be benefited from that.
If Democrats retake control of the U.S. Senate, you would replace Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski as Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. How would your priorities as Chairman differ from Sen. Murkowski’s?
I’m not really here to talk about any other race. I’m here to campaign for Clinton and while there is obviously a lot to elections, right now, if I have a priority, it is focusing on an energy bill with Sen. Murkowski and getting that over the goal line in the lame duck.
I think there are a lot of people in Alaska concerned that if Hillary Clinton is elected, what that is going to mean for our resource industry. Hillary Clinton has made some comments about putting a lot of coal miners out of jobs. In Alaska, we have a lot of coal and people working in the coal industry. What would a Clinton presidency mean for Alaska resource development issues such as coal, OCS development, ANWR, NPRA, etc?
I haven’t asked her about those specifically, so I can’t give you a detailed answer about what her views are on that. I have heard what she has said about an energy strategy and she includes in that many things. I know there is a lot of infrastructure investment that Alaskans have talked about as it relates to a natural gas pipeline, but I’m not 100% sure where she is on that issue so I have to refrain from commenting.
Based on what you have seen from Donald Trump as a candidate, how do you think he will be able to work with congress to get a legislative agenda passed?
My own personal viewpoint is we’ve had this transitioning economy and then we had this implosion in ‘09 that we haven’t fully recovered from. So I want to see someone who is going to work across the aisle, who will work with a lot of different people to pull things together and move things forward. That is what Sen. Murkowski and I have been doing on energy.
I’m not sure how hands-on he will be. So what do I think about him and Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell? I’m not sure how that all works out. These are the leaders of their party and they have strong viewpoints about how they deal with their organization. I’m not sure how that works with Donald Trump. He is a little bit more of a renegade on that. I think what people really want is people to work together and get things done.
What would your role be if Hillary Clinton were to become President?
I am a very big advocate for our part of the world. I am a very big Northwest person. By that I mean I think we bring a perspective about innovating and trying new things, and collaboration, and working together. When I think about a bunch of the things that are going on in my state, in Washington, you know, the discussion about the $15 minimum wage. The Mayor didn’t just do it. He got everyone together and said “how would we do this?” I would push her for those models.
In an information age, you can have a lot of ideas out there and solutions, but if you can’t get them implemented because everyone is arguing with each other then you aren’t going to get anywhere. The key of it is going to be sitting down with people you disagree with. I would try to bring that perspective to her.
Do you think Hillary Clinton is going to win Alaska?
I have always said to her, they ought to look at Alaska. I think Alaskans have very strong views of themselves and want to express their opinions. I don’t think they care what everyone else thinks, I think they want to say what Alaska has to say. I’m hoping they say something for Hillary.
It is clear that the Republican Party has had this debate about their nominee. I’m sure there are people here in Alaska who are part of the republican establishment who aren’t supporting him. You also have a very high libertarian and independent streak here and I think that is going to make it very interesting to see what happens.