The Ketchikan-Wrangell House district has the only party primary in Southeast Alaska this year. But legislative candidates in other districts are still raising money and gearing up campaigns.
Boundary changes mean most are running in somewhat different districts this year.
It’s changing the amount of money incumbents and hopefuls need to raise.
”You know the district’s getting bigger. We picked up Haines and Metlakatla and Hyder and other areas in between. So it’s going to take a little more time to move around,” says Sitka Republican Senator Bert Stedman.
His district used to include his hometown, Petersburg, Ketchikan and Wrangell. It’s lost Petersburg, and gained a number of smaller communities, including Angoon, Hoonah and Kake.
His general-election opponent, Angoon Democratic Senator Albert Kookesh, has represented the smaller towns for years. Sitka, Ketchikan and Wrangell have been added to his district, but a hundred or so Interior communities have been dropped.
Kookesh says that means fewer flights.
“I used to have to go from Angoon to Juneau, then to Anchorage and then to Fairbanks and then catch little commuter planes to all those villages. They didn’t have common carriers up there either. You had to take a different carrier to almost every village. So there’s got to be a lot less traveling,” Kookesh says.
Travel costs money, and so does introducing yourself to new communities. Kookesh leads that race at this point in the campaign. State reports show he’s raised $26,615, including funds left over from last year. Stedman has brought in around 20 percent less, $21,644.
But both say they have much more to raise.
Kookesh says he expects to bring in more than $50,000, double what he’s collected so far.
“The only thing I’ve done is fund-raisers. I haven’t done any online or any of that kind of stuff at all,” he says.
He says he’s raised money in his district and at an event in Anchorage.
Stedman says he expects his campaign to cost $50,000 to $80,000. But he really hasn’t gotten started.
“Well, I’m going to wait until the boys are done fishing and tourism slows down. Then we’ll have some fund-raisers in the communities,” Stedman says.
He says he doesn’t expect to fund-raise in Anchorage.
The other expensive Southeast race is for the House seat representing Sitka and most of the small communities in the Stedman-Kookesh district.
Haines Republican Representative Bill Thomas has brought in $58,941, including funds left over from last year. Sitka Democrat Jonathan Kriess-Tomkins has brought in around a quarter of that amount, $14,922.
Like the Stedman-Kookesh race, the candidates have no primary opposition. They’ll face of in the November 6th general election.
But that race has an unusual twist. Republican Thomas and Democrat Kookesh are longtime friends and political allies. In past races, they’ve crossed party lines to campaign for each other.
Kookesh knows that’s unlikely this year.
“We haven’t talked about it at all. I think it puts him in an awkward position because of Bert. They’re both Republicans,” Kookesh says.
Stedman says he and Thomas could campaign on their shared budget work.
While has not talked to Thomas about it, he’s already working a combined campaign.
“I’ve got a whole garage full of Bill Thomas for state House stuff in my garage I brought down for him from Haines to help him put up in Sitka,” Stedman says. “And I would hope in the general [election] we would have the opportunity to stand there as two Republicans and present our wares to the district.”
The busiest Southeast race is in the Ketchikan-Wrangell district, where three candidates are facing off in the Aug. 28th GOP primary.
Ketchikan’s Patti Mackey has raised the most money – $13,196 – including what she had left at the end of last year.
Wrangell Representative Peggy Wilson has brought in $10,588. And Ketchikan’s Agnes Moran has raised $6,474.
The primary winner will face off against Ketchikan Democrat Matt Olsen, who has raised $7,996. The incumbent, Ketchikan Republican Kyle Johansen, has filed to run in the general election without a party label. State campaign records show he has raised $1,900, all left over from last year.
Redistricting has put 59 of Alaska’s 60 legislative seats on the ballot. That’s 19 more that usual.
Kookesh says that’s spread out campaign donations.
“With all of the candidates running this year except for Dennis Egan, people are having trouble raising money. And I am too,” he says.
Egan, a Democratic senator, is in the middle of his second term representing Juneau. Petersburg and Gustavus were added, but officials decided the district was so similar he could complete the four-year term without an election.
Juneau’s two representatives, Democrat Beth Kerttula and Republican Cathy Munoz, face no opposition in the primary or general elections.
But they’ve still raised money. Munoz has close to $21,600, while Kerttula has brought in $9,200.