The governor will visit the Southeast town of Wrangell next Tuesday. The town overwhelmingly voted the Republican official into office. But many in the coastal community want Mike Dunleavy to know they believe in ferries.
Not everyone has heard that the governor is coming to town. But Don McConachie might be a bit more civic minded than most in Wrangell. He did serve on the assembly and as mayor for many years.
“I have a question to ask him too, I would ask him if he made reservations on the ferry,” McConachie says.
That wasn’t the first or last time I heard that punchline. Almost everyone I spoke with immediately brought up their concerns for the future of the Alaska Marine Highway System.
Dunleavy proposed a 75 percent cut to the Alaska Marine Highway System last year. After a compromise with the legislature, the ferries lost $43 million in a single swoop.
But Wrangell is a Republican town. Of those who cast a ballot in the gubernatorial race, 65 percent voted for Dunleavy. That’s 14 percentage points higher than statewide results. McConachie voted for him in 2018, and doesn’t want the governor recalled. But McConachie isn’t sure if Dunleavy will get his vote in 2022.
“That is yet to be determined,” he says.
One Wrangell resident knows what’s it’s like to be in Dunleavy’s shoes. And even he says the governor can do better.
“Well I’m a little disappointed,” says former Governor Frank Murkowski. Like everyone else, the ferry is a priority for him. And he doesn’t believe a full PFD should be given out at the expense of critical infrastructure.
“Trying to maintain that when you have to cut services because your revenue is down, you have to, I think, prioritize just what’s important to the livelihood of southeastern Alaska,” Murkowski says.
A spokesman for the governor’s office says he expects AMHS to be a hot topic. In a press release regarding his community visits, Dunleavy says “your input will be valuable in solving many of the issues our state is facing.”
Dunleavy is in Petersburg today. He will visit Wrangell on February 4.