Two months. That’s about all the time former Rep. Beth Kerttula’s replacement will have to represent Juneau residents during the ongoing Legislative session. And although all three candidate names put forward by the Tongass Democrats on Monday — Jesse Kiehl, Sam Kito III and Catherine Reardon — would bring good ideas and experience to the House District 32 seat, Kiehl has the experience and perspective it takes to make things happen in the small window of time remaining.
We hope all three nominees run for election once session is over — a contested race enhances the quality of the democratic process and gives the people a real choice. In recent years, too many races have gone uncontested and that’s not good for government. What’s the point in having elections when there’s only one choice?
But for the time being, Gov. Sean Parnell needs to pick someone who’s ready to go right now. Kiehl’s background in state and local government will help him hit the ground running. He’s served as a legislative aide since 2000, first to former Sen. Kim Elton and currently for Sen. Dennis Egan. On top of that, he was elected to the District 1 (downtown) seat on the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly.
Kiehl knows the issues, both local and statewide.
Juneau needs experienced representation in the House as bills affecting the city come through. Juneau encountered a setback with Kerttula’s sudden departure, but Kiehl is the most likely candidate to make up ground the quickest. Of course, the candidate selected will have to run for re-election in the fall to retain the seat, meaning the person chosen can only count on being a member of the Legislature for this session. We applaud all those who put their names forward for the House seat and hope those who showed interest will consider running in the fall. But for now the smart choice is Kiehl, who’s proven during 14 legislative sessions that he can work with the majority and minority caucuses equally to serve our city. As a member of the 10-person minority caucus, it’s imperative Juneau has someone who can reach across political lines to ensure legislation gets passed. Otherwise the person selected for the seat risks being a non-factor as decisions are made.
Kiehl will be the most effective candidate in the short span remaining. There’s no time to learn the ropes when you’ve only got two months to get the job done.
• Empire editorials are written by the Juneau Empire’s editorial board. Members include: Publisher Rustan Burton, firstname.lastname@example.org; Director of Audience Abby Lowell, email@example.com; and Managing Editor Charles L. Westmoreland, firstname.lastname@example.org.