Long-serving state senator faces young challenger supporting statutory PFD

Republican Calvin Moto II of Deering is running against incumbent Democratic Sen. Donny Olson. (Photo courtesy of Calvin Moto II)

The race to represent the largest senate district in Alaska has officially become competitive. 

Calvin Moto II of Deering has filed to run for District T in the Alaska Senate, which includes Nome, the North Slope and Northwest Alaska. The seat is currently held by Democrat Donny Olson of Golovin. 

Moto is a lifelong resident of Deering, on the southern coast of Kotzebue Sound. He serves as president of the village’s tribal government, and he’s also been on Deering’s city council. 

Moto is a registered Republican. And he says one of the reasons he’s running is to restore permanent fund dividends to the size mandated by a decades-old legal formula set by the Legislature. Elected officials, like former Governor Bill Walker, set that formula aside in recent years in an effort to avoid depleting Alaska’s savings.

“When the Walker administration had voted down, cut our PFDs, we were hurt,” Moto said. “We had some people who couldn’t buy a new four-wheeler, they couldn’t buy new snowmachines. They couldn’t buy a new motor for their boat. People’s lives are affected by that, not just short-term, but long-term.”

Moto is 34 years old, and he says he wants younger rural Alaska voices to be represented in the Legislature. He says he thought of running for the state House seat that will soon be vacated by Representative John Lincoln of Kotzebue, but he reconsidered when he saw two rural millennial candidates vying for that seat. 

“What that does is that allows for new blood to come in and more people’s needs and wants are met because more people are getting exchanged in these seats,” Moto said. “Therefore we’re not stuck with one politician for the majority of our lives.”

Olson is 66 years old and was first elected to the Senate in 2000. 

Over his two decades in office, Olson has only faced one opponent in a Senate election: Republican Allen Minish from the town of Chitina in the 2012 general election.