State Senate District K, encompassing the neighborhoods of Jewell Lake, Sand Lake, a small portion of Spenard and Turnagain, along with its two House Districts (21 and 22), is the most contested election district in the state. There is not a single incumbent running to maintain their seat in the district. That means that two House seats and one Senate seat will go to newbies. Portions of this district voted for President Obama in 2012. However, since reapportionment, led by former GOP Chair Randy Ruedrich, who carved out the district with x acto-knife like precision, the district has arguably become more conservative.
Here’s a little about the two candidates running for state Senate and the candidates running for the two House seats in the district, and my take on the current states of these races, for what they’re worth.
Republican Mia Costello v Democrat Clare Ross
The current senator is the well-respected retiring Hollis French who ran successfully for lieutenant governor in the Democratic primary and then resigned his nomination in favor of the Unity Ticket. Running for his seat is Republican Rep. Mia Costello and Democrat Clare Ross.
Costello has been a state representative since 2011. She’s a Harvard graduate, and the first Alaskan to qualify to try out for the U.S. Olympic swimming team in 1988. She’s well liked in her House district.
Democrat Clare Ross, a political newcomer, most recently served as the Municipality of Anchorage’s Development Director for the Library. She has a degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Reed College in Portland, Oregon.
West Anchorage is fortunate to have two very bright, capable female Senate candidates.
Both Costello and Ross are working hard, going door-to-door, aggressively putting up yard signs around the district and preparing their mailings and media. Ross enjoys the support of organized labor, NEA-AK, and received the Great Alaska Schools’ Seal of Approval along with a list of other organizations as long as your arm. She’s at events and forums all around town, and she knows how to pull on heartstrings when she talks about education funding.
Costello has the United Fisherman of Alaska on her side (for whatever that’s worth in West Anchorage) and the NRA. She’s also got the support of industry. The Alaska Support Industry Alliance, the group that supports the oil companies, held Costello’s first fundraiser supporting her Senate bid. Having gone to school in West Anchorage, she’s got the home-team advantage, and she said that she’s running into old classmates and teachers as she’s knocking on doors. That said, she likely hurt herself last legislative session by taking the lead on the unions in the minimum wage battle.
According to the last APOC reports filed in August, Ross has a slight financial advantage in the race. She raised $57,187 to Costello’s $52,190.
Much of this race will be determined by voter-turnout between the more conservative and more liberal parts of the district. The unions will work hard to make that happen for Ross, and I’m not seeing a comparable effort for Costello.
Current state of the race: Leaning Ross.
Matt Claman v Anand Dubey
On the Turnagain side of Senate District K, is House District 21 where Democrat Matt Claman will face Republican Anand Dubey to fill the legislative seat opening due to Rep. Lindsey Holmes’ retirement. This is a moderate district and one that supported Obama in 2012.
Claman is no newcomer to politics, having served on the Anchorage Assembly, selected to serve as the Assembly’s chair, and as acting mayor after then Mayor Mark Begich won his Senate race. He’s a thoughtful and intelligent lawyer and an accomplished outdoor guide. His website features video endorsements from people in the district and includes a picture of Begich.
Dubey is a first generation immigrant from India. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in chemical engineering and first came to Alaska to finish his MBA at Alaska Pacific University. He served as the state’s director of enterprise technology during the Palin administration and currently is a self-employed IT consultant. His first stab at elected office was in 2012 when he lost in his state House bid against Rep. Lindsey Holmes. This year he surprised the Republican Party establishment by defeating Matt Fagnani in the primary by winning 60 percent of the vote despite having been out raised financially six to one.
Both Claman and Dubey have been working hard, going door-to-door. Claman has significantly-out raised Dubey more than five to one according to the last APOC reports filed in August. An unmeasurable factor in this race may be some proprietary campaign software that Dubey developed to assist his campaign. He has since commercialized the product and has sold it to other political candidates. One factor worth watching in this race is Dubey’s contribution receipts now that he’s the Republican nominee. In any case, he has learned to campaign effectively with very limited funds, and he presents well at that door. Dubey should not be under estimated.
Current state of the race: Leaning Claman, but, as I said, one should never underestimate Dubey.
Liz Vazquez v Marty McGee
In the more conservative side of the senate district in House District 22, Republican Liz Vazquez will face Democrat Marty McGee for the House seat being vacated by Rep. Mia Costello.
Vazquez ran in 2012 for the state Senate in hopes of replacing Hollis French but lost in the primary to the party favorite Bob Bell who eventually lost in the general. Many have said that in retrospect, she may have been a better candidate than Bell. She is a lawyer by profession. Her husband, Mark Davis, also an attorney works for the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority. In the past, she has campaigned door-to-door on her Segway.
McGee, an Anchorage tax assessor, was fired from the State Assessment Review Board earlier this year by Gov. Sean Parnell, who, as we have come to learn, doesn’t do such things easily. His campaign website features a touching web video that I highlighted previously in this blog
McGee says he’s running for office because, among other things, he believes the oil industry has too much influence in the state, which might be a difficult sell in a district that voted NO on Ballot Measure #1 in the primary.
According to the last APOC filing in August, McGee raised slightly more than $28,000 to Vazquez’s paltry $2,377. (One of the reasons that Bell was anointed over Vazquez was her lack of fund-raising prowess.) However, the factors that Vazquez has going for her is the overwhelming conservative balance of the district along with any residual name identification from two years ago.
Current state of the race: Leaning Vazquez, however, unless Vazquez is able to attract some financial support, it’s likely that the affable Marty McGee could steal a Republican House seat for the Democrats.
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