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As candidates scrambled to file election papers before the deadline Thursday afternoon, Juneau's Republican Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch announced he would not run for re-election, and Deputy Mayor Randy Wanamaker, also a Republican, said he will run for the empty seat.
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Juneau Democratic Rep. Beth Kerttula will run for re-election unopposed. Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, will face a newcomer, fisherman Mac Meiners, a Republican who filed Thursday afternoon.
Wanamaker will face Democratic activist Andrea Doll, who announced her candidacy for Weyhrauch's seat earlier this week.
Weyhrauch's decision not to run again surprised some, and particularly Wanamaker, who said he dropped off his papers at the Division of Elections office Thursday after learning the news.
Weyhrauch said serving as a legislator while running a law practice and raising three children was a lot to juggle. He said he had to sell property to make it possible.
"I didn't sign on to this job as a career," he said. "I think people should do what they can within the system and then get out and let others have a chance."
"I can't get by on $24,000 a year," especially while paying a mortgage and saving for college tuition, Weyhrauch said.
Now completing his second term in the Alaska House, he is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and also sits on the powerful House Finance Committee. Weyhrauch backed funding for the Juneau-access highway and won revenue for a variety of city projects.
It was a dream of his to be involved in the formation of state policy, Weyhrauch said. At times during his four years, making laws looked a bit like watching a train wreck, he said.
"In order to change the system you have to be a part of the system," Weyhrauch said. "But the political system leaves a lot to be desired."
Weyhrauch made his decision Thursday morning, he said. Juneau residents were encouraging him to run for re-election or even challenge Elton for his Senate seat this year.
"'Surprise' isn't the right word, but I'm a little disappointed," said House Speaker John Harris, R-Valdez. "But I know Bruce has some other issues that he's dealing with and I respect that very much."
The speaker added that Weyhrauch was one of the smartest members in the House, known for his legal mind and balanced approach.
"He was a good spokesman for the Juneau area," said House Majority Leader John Coghill, R-North Pole.
Harris added that if Juneau does not have at least one member in the majority caucus - House or Senate - the city becomes vulnerable to capital-move proposals and economic decisions.
Wanamaker said he closely monitored the work of Weyhrauch and his predecessor, Republican Rep. Bill Hudson. If elected, Wanamaker said, he would follow the same path of what he called responsible development for the district.
"Those folks have shown how working with the majority and working as a team player with other people can be a real value to the community. Their model is the example I would like to follow," he said.
District 4 covers the Mendenhall Valley and upper Lynn Canal, and it's the same district Wanamaker represents on the Juneau Assembly.
"This is a continuation of service that I'm already providing and I'm taking it up one more level," Wanamaker said.
The deputy mayor and father of four is also executive director of a vocational training referral service known as the BBC Human Resource Development Corp. Wanamaker was elected to the Juneau School Board before serving on the Assembly.
He said he supports the Juneau-access road and construction of the Kensington gold mine planned for Berners Bay.
"I respect Randy," said Doll, his opponent. "We've worked on (city) committees together. I think a lot of him and I look forward to it."
Doll has worked with the Greater Juneau Democratic Party, the League of Women Voters and the Juneau Chapter of the National Organization for Women for several years.
She said she and her opponent would agree on education issues but differ on regional development.
Elton said he wasn't surprised someone entered the race for his Senate district before the 5 p.m. deadline. Not having an opponent would have made the race seem like dancing with a broom, he said.
"I think the community is served better when there is a dialogue rather than a monologue," Elton said.
So far, the senator has served 16 straight years in an elected office, beginning with a seat on the Juneau Assembly and then two terms in the Alaska House.
Attempts to reach Elton's opponent, Meiners, for comment Thursday were unsuccessful by press time.
Kerttula said that running unopposed is "a real honor." Despite the lack of another candidate to debate, she said she would run her campaign as if someone were in the race and would listen to her constituents.
Andrew Petty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.