05 September 2006

Diane Benson

Diane Benson, Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress, was in KNOM's Studio C today. I spoke with her for about 45 minutes and then promptly - and accidentally - deleted the interview. Nonetheless, some notes.

-She's not a good politician. By that I mean she doesn't have ready "sound-biteable" answers for many of the questions I asked that she should have expected. But when she gets talking about issues she cares about (e.g. veterans' benefits, community empowerment), she had some good thoughts to share.

-She gets defensive very easily. When I asked her about her 2002 run for governor as a Green party candidate and then asked her what she would say to people who might see her as a political opportunist for running as a Democrat now, she said I was being "argumentative" and got pretty huffy.

-She raised a good point about how difficult it is for people to run for office since every last piece of information about them becomes public knowledge and it can be tough to put up with the scrutiny.

-She self-identifies as an Alaska Native but only told me that only after I explicitly asked. There's no information about it on her web site (that I could find) and she says she doesn't think people should choose candidates on the basis of race or religion or ethnicity.

-The comments she kept returning to were the predictable ones about Don Young and his campaign contributions from companies and how he doesn't really represent the people of Alaska. I was expecting it but was pleasantly surprised at how compellingly she made her point.

-She really danced around the issue of Iraq, which I found surprising since she talks a lot about how her son's injury in Iraq led to her candidacy (though she didn't draw that explicit connection today). I tried to ask her about what policies or principles she would follow as she debated the issue in Congress and I had to ask several times because she kept asking rhetorical questions without saying she was committed to withdrawal (though she called it a "quagmire") or saying she wanted to see the effort continue (though she said we needed to do a better job supporting the troops) or offering any alternative paths.

-She thinks Alaska fits right into the nationwide anti-incumbent mood and people should vote for her because Democrats are going to re-take the House in November and Don Young will be a nobody then. So will she, though.

Initial verdict: cannon-fodder for the Young machine but at least a somewhat respectable candidate who can be reasonably well-spoken at times.

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