Senate hopefuls are lining up to fill the seat to be vacated next week by veteran Southeast Alaska lawmaker Robin Taylor.
Taylor, a Wrangell Republican, announced in August his plans to leave the Legislature for a new job as a special assistant to Department of Transportation Southeast Region Director Gary Paxton.
Taylor has spent almost 20 years in the Legislature, entering the House of Representatives in 1984 and moving on to the Senate in 1992. Taylor's District A represents much of Southeast Alaska, including Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Sitka and surrounding areas.
Since the seat is held by a Republican, the position will be filled through a selection process by Republicans in the district. House Districts 1 and 2 share their constituency with Senate District A.
"I expect fewer applicants than in the California governor's race," said Randy Reudrich, chairman of the Republican Party of Alaska.
The party, so far, has received indications of interest from at least six people, including state Rep. Peggy Wilson, a Wrangell Republican, according to Reudrich and Susan Stone, District 1 chairwoman for the state Republican Party.
State Rep. Bill Williams, a Saxman Republican, said he is not interested in giving up a powerful position as co-chairman of the House Finance committee to vie for the appointment.
"I think I'd do better for the district and Southeast if I stayed in the position that I'm in right now in the House," Williams said.
Williams, however, said he might run for the position when it comes up in the 2004 election.
Stone said she also has received indications of interest from several Ketchikan residents. That list includes Jim Elkins, Dick Burton, Maggie Sarber, Colleen Scanlon and Jim Van Horn.
Wilson, the most prominent of the candidates, said her constituency would double from about 15,000 in House District 2 to about 30,000 in Senate District A if she is picked for the seat.
Describing herself as a "hands-on legislator," Wilson said her biggest concern is losing touch with her constituency.
"I just don't want to be spread too thin," she said.
Wilson is chairwoman of the House Health, Education and Social Services committee and vice chairwoman of the House Special Committee on Fisheries. She also serves on the House Ways and Means committee, the House Special Committee on Education and three Finance subcommittees: Health and Social Services; Fish and Game; and Education.
Prior to entering the Alaska House in 2000, Wilson served three terms in the North Carolina state House of Representatives.
During her time in the North Carolina Legislature, Wilson published a weekly newsletter to update constituents on bills under consideration. She said she's continued that connection to constituents in Alaska with a weekly radio spot during the legislative session called "Peggy's Corner of the House."
She said she is concerned about moving from the House to the Senate, a legislative body known for partisanship and political infighting.
"Sometimes things don't get done in the Senate because they hit a wall, but maybe I can make a difference," she said.
The deadline for turning in application material to the party office is 5 p.m. Sept. 19, said party chairman Reudrich.
Taylor's last day in the Senate is Monday. From that point, Republicans and Gov. Frank Murkowski will have 30 days to select a replacement.
Reudrich said Republican committees from House Districts 1 and 2 will hold a teleconference meeting in Sitka and Ketchikan on Sept. 20 to pick three or four names to send to Murkowski.
"We will have the list to the governor probably no later than the 22nd (of September)," Reudrich said.
To qualify for the position, Reudrich said, candidates must be members of the Republican Party and have lived in the district since June of 1999.
Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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