PUBLISHED: 4:39 PM on Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Congress hopeful discusses Alaska
A brief on business with five questions
Diane E. Benson grew up in Southeastern Alaska in a variety of places including Juneau, Ketchikan, logging camps like Twelve-Mile Arm, Metlakatla and even fishing boats and a boat house. In 2005 Benson's only child, her son, was wounded in Iraq, losing both his legs and suffering other serious wounds. In the spring of 2006, she launched a campaign for Congress, and won the Democratic nomination for U.S. Congress. She finished the run with just over 40 percent of the vote to Don Young's 57 percent. She is currently campaigning to again run for Young's seat in Congress.

"I think Alaska is too broad and diverse, and it's very important for everyone to come together and work to find solutions to the difficult questions we've had to face," Benson said.

  Diane Benson
Here are her answers to questions recently asked by Capital City Weekly.

What do you think the largest issue facing currently facing Alaska?

I'd be hard pressed to pick one. I think in terms of development, it's the gas line. I think we have renewable energy discussions that need to take place, especially concerning global warming. We also have other issues. I think ethics is on the minds of just about every Alaskan right now in one form or another.

How would you like to see Alaska change?

I think we have an absolute opportunity and a future in renewable energy and energy independence. Not just alternative but renewable. Not in a way that we sacrifice the renewable industries that we currently have like our fisheries. I think our fisheries must be protected. It is one of the No. 1 industries in the state, and continues to give and we continue to rely on it in every way.

I want to see us maintain that. I consider that a priority and, of course, I love my salmon. Growing up in Southeast, you know, and my family comes from Sitka, I'm Tlingit and I'm Norwegian, so we have a long history there. I'm very proud of that history and very proud for coming from Southeast and want to Southeast benefit most assuredly. I think we have a possibility to build industry here as well. Not just think in terms of big projects.

Yes, let's get the gas line done, but let's also build energy efficient single-family homes. We can make Alaskans benefit rather than outside sources taking our resources and leaving. That's not benefiting Alaska.

How do you feel about the war in Iraq?

It's always going to be an issue as long as it's out there. If I was in Congress right now, I would be one of those people really pushing for us to get out of Iraq. Part of what's binding the hands of Congress a little bit, and that's not to say I'm dismissing Congress's role, but it would be more effective if the executive branch, this administration, was really doing its part to help end the situation. It needs to be putting in the diplomatic efforts, really looking at the economic possibilities to help relieve the anguish in Iraq and its people. You don't win the hearts and minds simply by bringing in more troops. I think we need to work with the other nations and engage in negotiations with Iraqi leaders in a more effective way. There hasn't been enough outreach in this regard.

What kind of example do you hope to portray to young girls?

I just did a speaking engagement where I got to talk to young up and coming leaders who are college graduates who are all Alaska Native. It was a wonderful opportunity to talk and get their response.

I think it's really important to me because I am Alaska Native to really do the best job I can to represent my people well but to represent all Alaskans in a dignified way. Alaska is embarrassed right now by its own delegation. That's sad to me, and I want to change that.

What are some topics that you think concern Southeast Alaska?

It's important for me to hear the concerns of the people of the regions and listening to them instead of me telling them what their priorities are. Southeast is very dear to my heart so I want to see is succeed and thrive and do well.

There are issues of course that are on the minds of many Southeastern Alaskans that are not in my jurisdiction of Congress but are state issues. Maybe that's the capitol or infrastructure concerns. Industries too. Tourism has a big impact on southeast.

How we manage those kinds of operations so people aren't negatively impacted but profit. Management of various issues and concerns.

I personally want to hear from Southeast Alaskans how to best manage resources.

Editor's note: Capital City Weekly will each week feature a business or organizational leader to answer five questions. To send suggestions for interviewees, send e-mail to Amanda Gragertat