New District Pits Southeast Incumbents Against Each Other

The Supreme Court’s latest redistricting ruling resurrects a contest between two incumbent Southeast lawmakers.

Tuesday’s decision puts Wrangell Representative Peggy Wilson in the same election district as Ketchikan Representative Kyle Johansen. They’ll face off against each other, as well as other candidates, in the August 28th Republican primary. The new district matchup is only in place for this year’s elections.

Wilson now represents her hometown, Petersburg and Sitka. That would have stayed about the same under the Alaska Redistricting Board’s most recent plan.

But the earlier plan, chosen by the state’s Supreme Court Tuesday, puts her in a district with Ketchikan, Saxman and parts of Prince of Wales Island.

Wilson, reached via cell phone on a trip to the Midwest, says the decision surprised her.

Ketchikan has far more people than any other community in the new district.

Johansen could not be reached for immediate comment. But in past interviews, he’s said he preferred not to run against Wilson.

Wilson feels the same way.

Wilson and Johansen face at least two other Republicans in the August primary.  Ketchikan City Council Member Matt Olsen is the only Democrat running for what will be called House District 33.

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Ed Schoenfeld is Regional News Director for CoastAlaska, a consortium of public radio stations in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg and Wrangell. He primarily covers Southeast Alaska regional topics, including the state ferry system, transboundary mining, the Tongass National Forest and Native corporations and issues. He has also worked as a manager, editor and reporter for the Juneau Empire newspaper and Juneau public radio station KTOO. He’s also reported for commercial station KINY in Juneau and public stations KPFA in Berkley, WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and WUHY in Philadelphia. He’s lived in Alaska since 1979 and is a contributor to Alaska Public Radio Network newscasts, the Northwest (Public Radio) News Network and National Native News. He is a board member of the Alaska Press Club. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he lives in Douglas.