As I wrote in an earlier article about the four Senate races to watch, the deadline to file for office in Alaska was on Monday, meaning that the field is set. All told, 14 Senate seats are up for election, as are all 40 House seats. Below are what I consider to be 13 of the most interesting and competitive of those House races.
- House District 1 – This seat is currently occupied by Democratic Rep. Scott Kawaski. There are two Republican challengers: Greg Bringhurst and Jomo Stewart. I’m hearing that Jomo Stewart, who has been around for a while, is likely to have a slight edge in the Republican primary. Assuming Stewart wins the primary, this race could get interesting really fast. The district has changed significantly after redistricting. Kawasaki, who was first elected in 2006, is a relentless door-to-door campaigner and is known for constituent work. Likewise, Stewart will bring a lot of energy and personality to the race. And both dress well. At this early stage of the campaign, my money is on Kawasaki.
- House District 3 – Redistricting has thrown incumbent Republican Reps. Doug Isaacson and Tammie Wilson into the same district. The two candidates are very different from one another, and those differences in this North Pole-based district are likely to be the deciding factors. Isaacson, for the most part, seems to generally believe that his role as a government official is to make lives better. Wilson, on the other hand, seems more interested in protecting people from the government by keeping it out of people’s lives. Both candidates are hard-working and good campaigners. This will be a hard fought and close race. However, at this juncture, I would give Wilson a slight lead. The winner of the Republican primary will face Sharron Hunter. Given the district’s ruby-red hue, it’ll most certainly stay Republican.
- House District 6 – This open seat created by redistricting will see a Republican primary race between former Denali Borough mayor Dave Talerico and Tom Dunning of Tok. The winner will face Democrat and Slana resident Wilson Justin in the general. Everything that I’ve heard to date is that Talerico is the guy to beat.
- House District 7 – The beating you hear in this district is the heart of Wasilla. Sarah Palin country. Where the bars stay open until 5 a.m. and where you can mosey up to a barstool and lay your gun on the bar. No one filed to challenge Republican freshman legislator Rep. Lynn Gattis in this Republican-leaning district in the primary. However, Wasilla mayor Verne Rupright has registered to run for this House seat against Gattis in the general election. Rupright is known for pulling out all the stops to win a race. Still, I think that Gattis has the edge assuming she works hard and runs a decent campaign.
- House District 12 – This is the House seat that is being vacated because of Bill Stoltze’s bid for the Senate. Two Republicans have filed: Mat-Su Borough Assemblyman Ron Arvin and Cathy Tilton, a former legislative aide to Rep. Neuman. Both candidates have their strengths and supporters. Tilton is rumored to have the ability and willingness to self-fund if necessary, and she’s got great shoes. Arvin’s got the good old business boys, whatever that means. (He might have great footwear too, for all I know). The Republican winner will face Democrat Gretchen Wehmhoff who is Stoltze’s sister-in-law. You can expect this seat, minus some intervention from the Democratic Gods, to stay in Republican hands.
- House District 15 – This race is all general election. The seat is held by Republican Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux who is known as an uber fund raiser and campaigner. She is being challenged for the seat by Laurie Hummel, a retired Army colonel and West Point instructor. Her ex-husband, Eric Feige, is a member of the Legislature, a strange pairing if there ever was one. This East Anchorage district is known for its high turnover of residents. LeDoux knows the district, the ethnic groups and has canvassed the district multiple times. Hummel, a newcomer to politics, is touted as a serious and good candidate by some Democratic leaders. One thing that could help Hummel is the Democratic door-to-door ground game supporting Senator Begich’s campaign. Overall, this race continues to look good for Rep. LeDoux for the time being.
- House District 19 – This seat is currently held by freshman Democratic Rep. Geran Tarr. The only challenge she faces is from Libertarian Cean Stevens in the general election. Two years ago, Stevens, who ran as a Republican, lost to Tarr by 20 points. The district covers Airport Heights and parts of Mountain View and is Democratic leaning. In fact, the best thing for Stevens would be if people confuse Libertarian with liberal. Tarr clearly has the edge but there is something interesting and compelling about Stevens, who is a former model and who has a chainsaw and isn’t afraid to use it. To cut up trees. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
- House District 21 – This Turnagain House district seat in Anchorage is currently held by Rep. Lindsey Holmes who has announced that she will not be seeking re-election. Two Republicans and one Democrat have filed for the seat. The Republicans running are Anand Dubay and Matt Fagnani. Dubay ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2012. His background is in information technology and he is a conservative. This is Matt Fagnani’s first bid for elected office. He was recruited to run by the Republican Party establishment. The Democrat in the race is Matt Claman, who served in the Anchorage Assembly and as Acting Mayor of Anchorage when Begich was elected to the U.S. Senate. This race is way too early to call, however, Dubay signs are starting to sprout up throughout the district. Another plus for Dubay is that he has developed some proprietary software that allows him and his campaign workers to go door-to-door in the district and capture voter preferences in real time and directly communicate with them. Fagnani’s wife is the owner of MSI (Marketing Solutions, Inc) which is one of the city’s leading advertising firms with political experience. In other words, you can expect both campaigns to be good. I would rank the Republican primary as a toss-up for now, giving the slightest edge to Dubay because of his earlier entry into the race. The general election in this district, in my eyes, is a toss-up leaning towards Claman for now.
- House District 22 – This is the seat currently occupied by Rep. Mia Costello. There’s one Democrat, Marty McGee, in the race and three Republicans: David Ness, Sherri Jackson and Liz Vazquez. Who’s going to win? I don’t know much about the other candidates, but I do know that Vazquez works hard, is smart, has a Segway and isn’t afraid to use it.
- House District 28 – Republican Rep. Mike Hawker has represented this district since first being elected in 2002. One of the keys to his success has been that he always takes his opposition seriously. This year, he’ll be running against Democrat Sam Combs, a local architect. While Combs has never held elected office, he has been involved in a number of community organizations such as the World Affairs Council, NFIB, and several professional boards and organizations for architects. Many think that he’ll focus his campaign on the controversy surrounding the Anchorage Legislative Office lease. As an architect, Combs could speak with some authority on the subject. At this juncture of the campaign season, I would say that the district is leaning heavily towards Hawker.
- House District 32 – Four candidates have filed for the seat being vacated by Rep. Alan Austerman. Three of them are Kodiak Republicans: Carol Austerman, daughter of Rep. Austerman; Louise Stutes; and Rich Walker. The winner of the Republican primary will face Democrat Jerry McCune from Cordova in the general election. My crystal ball tells me nothing about this race yet.
- House District 36 – This Ketchikan House seat is opening due to Rep. Peggy Wilson’s retirement. Three Republicans have filed for the seat: Chere Klein, Patti Mackey and Agnes Moran. The winner of the Republican primary will face Dan Ortiz who is not affiliated with any party. Word is that Patti Mackey, who is heavily involved in the tourism industry, may have a leg up on the race at this time.
- House District 40 – North Slope Rep. Ben Nageak will face Kotzebue’s Dean Westlake in the August 19th primary. The only thing for certain is that District 40’s representative will be a Democrat. I would give incumbent Rep. Nageak a slight advantage for now.
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