• Young’s big seat attracts eight candidates wanting to take him on
By Naomi Klouda
The din hasn’t risen yet on the U.S. House election, but the southern Kenai Peninsula was the focal point last week for candidates seeking to upset 40-year incumbent Rep. Don Young.
Two of the candidates live in the Homer-Anchor Point area. John R. Cox, the Anchor Point Chamber of Commerce president and small business owner, is running on the Republican ticket. Frank Vondersaar is a Homer Democrat who works at the Salvation Army and volunteers his time for many local nonprofits.
Also running on the Democratic ticket is Matthew Moore, Debra Chesnut, Doug Urquidi and Sharon Cissna. Terre Gales joins Don Young and John Cox on the Republican ticket. An eighth candidate, Jim McDermott, runs as a Libertarian.
As of the Aug. 8 federal campaign reporting period, Young had raised $782,823. According to opensecrets.org, 33 percent, or $262,180 came from Political Action Committees. Sixty percent came from large contributions, $472,391.
The next biggest campaign is Edward Moore at $22,641; Debra Chesnut $8,154, Sharon Cissna at $5,000, Frank J. Vondersaar’s $1,109 and Doug Urquidi $273. Numbers were unavailable for others who had not yet reported in this filing period.
Anchor Point Republican Cox, who has raised $17,000, said he is running for Young’s position hoping to change “politics as usual.”
“Young is laughed at behind his back by his colleagues. He’s made a joke of us. We’re one of only 15 states in the nation that is in the black, but we’re seen as a welfare state because we keep putting our hand out for more,” Cox said.
He has never held office, but served in the Navy 30 years.
“Anyone who has been in the military knows it is all politics,” Cox said. “I was there 29 years, 11 months and 27 days, and after the first enlistment, I learned to lobby senior individuals for the right to advance my subordinates. Politics is in everything in the military.”
If elected, Cox wants to work on a flat tax system for America and to get the federal budget under control. He leans with the Tea Party in believing the deficit is the biggest American crisis.
His local projects include working to gain the natural gas line for Anchor Point and ongoing work to incorporate Anchor Point as a first class city.
Cox owns his own home remodeling and inspections services, as well as he is a professional Locksmith and works seasonally with his sanding and snow removal services.
Cox describes himself as a hard-working American. “The Navy taught me skills for which I am forever grateful, and also taught me that I can succeed at anything if I work hard enough. During my years of service to our country, I never lost a life. I still have a strong desire to protect those who cannot protect themselves,” he wrote in his candidacy statement.
Frank Vondassar, a well-known local Democrat, lawyer and professional engineer who works at the Salvation Army, is running his 10th campaign for Congress. He began running in congressional campaigns 1992, and every two years, he has continued to run. Several of his runs were against the late Sen. Ted Stevens in the Senate. More recent campaigns have targeted Don Young as the one to oust from office. He has called Young “one of the most corrupt congressmen in the U.S. House.”
Vondassar takes issue against the culture of corruption in Washington, economic matters that mean 1 percent of the country’s wealthy hold the power and protect social security and Medicare-Medicaid.
“I want us to get rid of Republicans who are waging a war on women and get more rational in our protection against terrorism,” he said.
Channel 7’s KAKM “Running” will air on Friday, with Vondassar at the debate with other candidates.
A Democrat with name recognition statewide is Sharon Cissna, who campaigned from Homer-Ninilchik this past week as she travels the road system to talk to people on the issues. She attended the Kenai State Fair at Ninilchik. Cissna served the past 14 years in the Alaska Legislature. She became a national sensation when she refused to be patted down by Transportation Security Agents in the Sea-Tac airport last February. The incident came to broad attention because Cissna is a breast cancer survivor who wanted to speak out for people traumatized by airport pat downs as they are singled out going through security.
“Since I experienced abusive TSA airport behavior in 2010, I denied further airport abuse in 2011,” she explains about the two combined incidents. That meant a ride back to Alaska on the ferry because in refusing the pat-down, she was denied the right to board the plane.
“I didn’t intend it to be a campaign issue, but it is a constitutional rights matter, and I have heard from literally thousands of people who have been re-victimized by the TSA. Victims of sexual assault, cancer survivors – they are being re-traumatized in this abusive practice, and that can undo years of counseling,” Cissna said.
Mental and physical health has been a primary focus for Cissna’s legislative work. She was the founding co-chair of the Legislative Health Caucus, on which she served nine years. She traveled the state, rural and urban, conducting community conversations on health issues. These discussions are being compiled into a series of publications that will be made available.
Sissna is a 27-year owner of a publishing business and is a professional mental health counselor.
If elected to Congress, Cissna wants to broaden dialogue on the abusiveness that underlies the TSA’s practices, which impact even children in “bad touching-good touching,” understandings. She also wants to advocate for more economic opportunities, deficit control, Arctic development and health-care reform.
“I really want this campaign to be about issues, not about competition and campaign spending,” Cissna said. “We need to have many conversations and that’s what this campaign is about, discussions with Alaskans, where ever they are at.”
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