Few takers for seats in the Alaska Legislature

Posted: Wednesday, May 31, 2000

The following editorial appeared in May 23 edition of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

It's easy to gripe about the way government works.

Finding fault with elected officials is virtually a pastime for many residents of the 49th state. To hear some people talk, you might think folks are fed up with business as usual. You might imagine a crowd is itching to shoulder the challenge in Juneau and put Alaska's ship of state back on course.

Think again.

With a bit more than a week to go before the filing deadline, most incumbents in the Interior's legislative delegation face no competition. The exceptions to the rule are in the outlying areas. So far, Rep. Carl Morgan, R-Aniak, has a free ride in the GOP primary for House District 36, but he faces a Democratic opponent, Michael Peters, of Marshal, in the general election next fall.

At this point, from across the Interior all the way out into Prince William Sound, the state Division of Elections lists but one contested primary: Rep. John Harris, a Valdez Republican, is being challenged by Brian Wisner. The victor of that GOP primary in House District 35 has, at present, no opposition in the general election.

Elected officials often challenge their critics to suggest solutions, rather than simply complain. In that vein, citizens dissatisfied with the way government is conducted are not likely to see improvement when so few are willing to make a stab at changing the faces in charge.

Some folks are going to say it costs too much to win office these days. Some folks are going to say the incumbents have it all but locked up, protected by districts crafted to ensure the opposition never has a chance. Others are simply too busy to think about politics right now, preoccupied as they may be with plans for the season's first fishing trip down to the Mat-Su valley or Chitina.


Keep the excuses in mind next August and November, when it's a darn shame so few decent choices are on the ballot. Come January when your blood pressure begins rising with each new story out of Juneau, take a deep breath and remind yourself of all those good reasons why you, your neighbor and that guy talking a lot of sense at the shop the other day never lifted a finger to make a difference when it might have counted.

As of Monday morning, even the open seat created by House District 33 Rep. Gene Therriault's bid to replace Mike Miller in the state Senate had but a single taker. GOP nomination seeker Hugh Fate, the lone candidate entered in District 33, may lack the clout that goes with incumbency, but he's willing to stand up and offer his name for public service, which is more than anyone else can claim in the district.

Government is only as wise as the men and women who participate in its decision-making councils. Look in the mirror and ask yourself, could I make a difference in the capitol?

If the answer is yes, please stop by the state building before 5 p.m. on June 1 and fill out the paperwork at the Division of Elections to run for office.

The way Interior political races are shaping up, anyone named on the ballot stands a fair chance of winning by default.

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