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Juneau legislative seats uncontested again

Battles in Ketchikan, elsewhere likely to be focus of attention this election season

Posted: June 3, 2012 - 12:10am

Friday’s state election filing deadline passed with uncontested primary races in three of four Southeast House districts, including both Juneau races, but an intriguing multi-way contest is shaping up in Ketchikan.

And in some of the Southeast races outside Juneau the fall general election will likely hold some exciting races as well.

Neither of Juneau’s two representatives, Democrat Beth Kerttula in the new House District 32 or Republican Cathy Munoz in new House District 31 are facing either primary or general election challengers.

Munoz’ district included Mendenhall Valley, Auke Bay and up Lynn Canal; Kerttula’s is Douglas Island, Downtown Lemon Creek and the new communities of Petersburg, Tenakee Springs, Gustavus and Skagway.

This is the second race in a row in which neither Kerttula nor Munoz faced a challenger.

“I work hard and I love my work,” Kerttula said. “I’ll run hard if I have a race and I’ll keep in touch with the district.”

And Democratic Sen. Dennis Egan, whose Senate District P is made up of those two House districts is not facing re-election this year, the only legislative seat in the state not up for grabs in 2012.

The most contentious race appears to be in southern Southeast’s new House District 33, where Rep. Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell, is facing challenges from Agnes Moran, a member of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly and Patti Mackey, executive director of the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau, in the primary.

Running unopposed in the Democratic primary is Matt Olsen, a schoolteacher and member of the Ketchikan City Council.

Most noteworthy is who is no running. David Scott, a legislative aide from Ketchikan who had run afoul of ethics rules when he announced he was running while still working as a legislative staff member, did not file.

And most dramatically, incumbent Rep. Kyle Johansen, R-Ketchikan, withdrew his previous filing and instead filed as an independent to run in the November general election, now likely to be a three-way race against Olsen and the winner of the Republican primary.

“I just don’t want to play party politics anymore,” Johansen said.

Johansen in the last legislative session wound up outside the Republican-led House Majority coalition after a failed power play. Johansen said he feels he stands a better chance in a higher-turnout general election rather than in a Republican primary where party leaders in Ketchikan has unsuccessfully sought to recall him.

The state Republican Party has been in a state of turmoil, and Johansen said he believes he can get elected as a Republican without their backing.

In Ketchikan 60 percent of the electorate are undeclared or nonpartisan, and in small towns personal contact is more effective than party backing, he said.

“I’m not playing the party game anymore,” he said.

Johansen said he’ll now have to run in new parts of the district such as Ketchikan, where he is not well known, but said possible opponent Wilson isn’t that well now in the parts of the district that are new to her.

“She’s never run in Ketchikan or Prince of Wales, so its toss-up as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

Incumbent Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Haines picked up a Democratic challenger in his House District 34. A young Democratic activist from Sitka, Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, has filed to run against him in a district that also includes Hoonah, Angoon and Metlakatla.

Southeast has one contested Senate race, but only in the general election.

Redistricting put Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, and Sen. Albert Kookesh, R-Angoon, in the same district.

The primary election is scheduled for August 28, depending on the possible outcome of court challenges to redistricting.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com

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