Two vacancies in the state senate and the recent decision by Rep. Bill Williams, R-Saxman, to bow out of the race could make things interesting this election season.
Sen. Georgianna Lincoln, D-Rampart, decided this year not to pursue a fourth term as representative of Senate District C. The district covers much of Interior and Western Alaska and smaller Southeast towns such Haines, Hoonah, Skagway, Angoon and Craig. It is the largest state senate district in the United States, covering 250,000 square miles, 126 communities and nine national wildlife refuges.
Two House members - Carl Morgan, R-Aniak, and Albert Kookesh, D-Angoon - are looking to move up to the Senate. And a newcomer to state politics, Robert "Moose" Henrichs, of Cordova, also has entered that race as a Democrat.
Senate District A, which covers Ketchikan, Sitka, Petersburg, Wrangell and several other smaller Southeast towns, also is up for grabs this year.
The seat came open last year when longtime Republican lawmaker Sen. Robin Taylor, of Wrangell, left the Legislature for a position in the Murkowski administration.
Gov. Frank Murkowski originally appointed Ketchikan businessman Jim Elkins to the seat last fall, but changed his mind and picked Sitka stock broker Bert Stedman after Elkins criticized Murkowski's decision to eliminate Longevity Bonus checks for seniors.
Stedman served as senator last year but now has to prove that he can win votes.
Longtime Ketchikan politician Bill Williams announced plans to run for the seat last November but decided last week he will not seek another term in the Legislature. The announcement prompted Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly to run for the seat.
Today is the deadline to file for the November election.
Senate District A
Bert Stedman, 48, has owned and operated Pioneer Capital, an independent brokerage business, in Sitka since 1986. He is running as a Republican.
He served one three-year term on the Sitka City and Borough Assembly, serving one year as deputy mayor. He also spent eight years on the Sitka Planning and Zoning Commission.
Stedman said fixing the state's long-term fiscal problems is his top priority.
"In Southeast we need economic stimulus, not a suppressant of an income tax or a sales tax," Stedman said.
He said he ranks use of the Alaska Permanent Fund as one of the top tools for fixing Alaska's chronic deficit, but added that before adopting an endowment method, also known as the percent-of-market-value plan, for managing the fund or using the earnings for government it should go to a vote of the people.
"In my opinion it should be part of the solution," Stedman said. "But it's up to the people."
He said lawmakers should look at other options if the public rejects permanent fund use.
David Landis, 39, a recent convert to the Democratic Party, serves as vice mayor for the Ketchikan Gateway Borough. He also is deputy CEO for the Ketchikan Indian Community, a federally recognized Indian tribe.
Landis said Republican missteps such as eliminating Longevity Bonus checks for seniors and recent charges of ethics violations against Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich made him change his party affiliation.
Landis said he also is disappointed with the Republican majority caucus for sanctioning Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, for voting with Democrats to overturn Murkowski's veto of the Longevity Bonus. He said he would protect the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend if elected.
"I can categorically say that I will never vote for anything that will prevent my fellow Alaskans from getting their fair share of our state's resource wealth," Landis said in a press release.
Senate District C
Carl Morgan, 54, an electrician from Aniak, has served as a Republican in the state House of Representatives since 1999. He was mayor of Aniak from 1991 to 1996. He currently serves as chairman of the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee.
His position as chairman has allowed him to prevent mandatory borough incorporation for communities across the state, he said.
"It needs to be a local option," he said.
Morgan said he voted in favor of recent proposals to adopt an endowment methodology for managing the permanent fund but said it should only be part of the solution to solving the fiscal gap.
"I don't necessarily agree on a sales tax," he said. "I may consider an income tax."
Albert Kookesh, 55, owns a hunting and fishing lodge in Angoon and has served as a Democrat in the Legislature since 1997.
Kookesh said education is a top priority as well as public safety in communities, school construction and aide to municipalities through revenue sharing. He said he supports a progressive income tax to help fill the fiscal gap and wants the state to reexamine windfall profits taxes on the oil industry.
"I still think we need to look at oil taxes," Kookesh said. "I think they're getting away a little too lightly."
He said all options, including a statewide income tax, should be on the table for discussion.
"My problem is when you have the governor say he's not even going to look at the income tax," Kookesh said. "I don't like the sales tax, but I'm willing to put it on the table and have that discussion. I think the people of Alaska deserve to have everything as part of the discussion."
Robert "Moose" Henrichs
Robert "Moose" Henrichs, 61, of Cordova, is a commercial fisherman and has served as president of the Native Village of Eyak for 10 years. Henrichs also is chairman of both the Alaska Intertribal Council and Chugach Alaska Corporation.
He is running as a Democrat.
"I know Albert and Carl and they're both good men, but I'm offering voters a choice," Henrichs said.
He described himself as an advocate for economic development and said the state must work with Native organizations to help villages that have been hurt by the state's chronic budget deficit.
"One of the things that I think is going to happen is tribes and municipalities need to work together in rural Alaska," he said. "The community has asked our tribe to go after community health center funding. They've asked us to operate outpatient services for the entire community. I think that's a model of the future for rural Alaska. The state is so large and the funding sources are so small it's almost a necessity."
Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at email@example.com.
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