Nelson says she won't seek re-election

Posted: Sunday, January 27, 2008

BETHEL - The Alaska Legislature will lose another veteran legislator next year.

Rep. Mary Nelson, D-Bethel, told the Tundra Drums of Bethel she will not run again.

Nelson, just 24 years old in 1998, ousted incumbent Rep. Ivan Ivan in the Democratic primary and was elected to her first term, running under her former name, Mary Sattler.

Nelson's district includes Bethel and a broad swath of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. She now leads the Bush Caucus and holds a seat on the House Finance Committee.

But the mother of three, with a fourth child due in March, said her loyalties are split between her family and her duties as a legislator.

She said she and her family will remain in Juneau and that she expects to remain engaged in the public process.

Nelson is married to Joe Nelson, director of admissions at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau.

Her time in the Legislature spanned the FBI probe of corruption in Alaska politics, resulting in convictions of three state lawmakers and investigations of others. The investigations have tarnished the Legislature's image, she said.

"That has been very disappointing. That has definitely contributed to my desire to not run again," she said.

Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, said Nelson will be missed.

"Mary is without any question one of the more conscientious legislators in the Capitol building, urban or rural. She is going to be real tough to replace. If there is an issue that has Bush Alaska written on it, she's on top of it. I've learned a lot from her," he said by e-mail.

Rep. Woodie Salmon, D-Beaver, said Nelson knows issues well.

"She's really sharp in expressing her views in the rural areas, and that's what's so wonderful about Mary."

Democrat Eric Middlebrook has declared his intent to run for Nelson's seat.

Nelson's announcement was the second this week. Sen. Gary Wilken, R-Fairbanks, said he will not seek re-election.

• The Juneau Empire contributed to this story.

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