Tongass Democrats deliver names for open House seat

Governor has 30 days to appoint Kerttula's successor
Jesse Kiehl, Sam Kito III and Catherine Reardon talk with reporters on Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, in Juneau, Alaska. Kiehl, Kito and Reardon are the three candidates whose names were put forth by the Tongass Democrats for consideration for the Alaska House seat vacated by Beth Kerttula. The governor is slated to make the appointment, which is subject to ratification by House Democrats. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

Jesse Kiehl, Sam Kito III and Catherine Reardon were announced Monday morning as the candidates that Gov. Sean Parnell will choose from to fill the House seat vacated by former Rep. Beth Kerttula.

Parnell has 30 days to appoint someone to the seat, which Kerttula, a Juneau Democrat, officially resigned from on Jan. 24.

Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, delivered the letter from the Tongass Democrats, the local party, to Parnell on Monday morning. Egan said Parnell was “very receptive to the names on the list” and that he thinks the governor will appoint someone to the seat “sooner than later.”

“The governor said he has every intention of appointing specifically from the list that was submitted by Tongass Democrats today,” Egan said.

Kerttula’s departure left the House Minority with one member shy of the 10 needed to remain a formal caucus. House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, has said he won’t change current committee assignments and expects the minority will soon be back to a formal caucus. All three candidates confirmed that they would caucus with the minority if appointed and would run for re-election this fall when the seat expires.

Kiehl, currently a member of the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly and aide to Sen. Egan, said either way he would be campaigning this fall since his assembly seat is also up for re-election.

“In my case, I can guarantee that I’ll be on a ballot this fall,” Kiehl said. “My assembly seat is up and if I’m appointed to the House I’ll run for re-election there.”

Kito III, a civil engineer and lobbyist with roots in Petersburg, said he didn’t see his experience as a lobbyist affecting his abilities or opinions as a legislator. Kito described himself as a “lobbyist for lobbyists.” He currently has three clients, two lobbyists and the Alaska Massage Therapists Association.

“I’m fully committed as a candidate for the democratic appointment and I don’t have any concerns at all with my background as a lobbyist getting in the way of me being a legislator,” Kito said.

Reardon serves on the Juneau School District budget committee. She said she’s been watching the cuts made in local schools and is concerned.

“I think we need someone in there who’s ready to go to fight for appropriate levels of funding for our public schools,” Reardon said. “I’m committed to this community and I feel like I’m ready to be the strong leader that this community needs.”

All three candidates said that while they would have their own styles of legislating, they also shared Kerttula’s philosophies and values.

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