By BECKY BOHRER – Associated Press
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Ten Alaska state legislators do not plan to seek re-election this year, and eight more are running for other offices.
Fifty-nine of the 60 seats in the Legislative Assembly are up for election.
Among those not planning to seek re-election are Republican Senate Speaker Peter Micciche, who previously announced his decision, and Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich.
Begich, a Democrat from Anchorage, remains on the slate of candidates but told The Associated Press on Thursday he was “pretty sure” he would step down next week.
“In my heart and in my mind, I walked away from work,” Begich said.
He said he spoke to Löki G. Tobin, who helped him, before Wednesday’s filing deadline and told him he couldn’t run again. She filed for the seat, for which independent Heather Herndon also filed a candidacy.
Begich said he felt “a sense of relief” indicating he would not be showing up.
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Tobin, a Democrat, said she was “excited and taken aback” when Begich called her. She said she is passionate about her community and ready to seize this opportunity.
Several of the incumbents who chose not to seek re-election cited family considerations, including Micciche and Republican Rep. Sara Rasmussen. Rasmussen said her young family previously moved to Juneau from their home in Anchorage to be with her during the session. But she said her son started kindergarten this year, so his family stayed in Anchorage and she commuted.
“I was really on the fence about everything, until the end of the session, and I felt like the best thing to do was just put my family first at that point,” said she declared.
This year’s regular session ended within the constitutional limit of 121 days, but previous years have been grueling, marked in some cases by divisive special sessions. There have been 15 extraordinary sessions since 2015, including four last year.
Democratic State Rep. Adam Wool of Fairbanks and Republican State Senator Josh Revak of Anchorage are among those running for a different position. Both are running for US House. Republican Rep. Christopher Kurka of Wasilla is running for governor. Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy is seeking re-election.
Five House members are running for the state Senate, including Democratic Representative Matt Claman, who is challenging Republican Senator Mia Costello; Democratic Rep. Geran Tarr, in a race with three other candidates, including Anchorage Democratic Assemblyman Forrest Dunbar; and Republican Representatives Kelly Merrick and Ken McCarty. Merrick and McCarty, both from the Eagle River area, are running in the same Senate race.
Two races at Anchorage State House feature sitting Democratic lawmakers — Representatives Harriet Drummond and Zack Fields and Representatives Andy Josephson and Chris Tuck, the House Majority Leader.
The primary is August 16; the withdrawal deadline is June 25.
It was only last week that the political boundaries for this year’s elections were set following a series of disputes over the redistricting process. It will also be the first cycle of state elections after a split federal appeals court decision last year that struck down several campaign contribution caps.
The Alaska Public Offices Commission said there are no longer limits on what an individual can donate to candidates or nonpartisan groups.
This year also brings changes to the electoral process. Under an initiative passed in 2020, there are no longer party primaries. The four candidates who win the most votes in their primary, regardless of political affiliation, will advance to the general election, in which preferential-choice voting will be used.
If there are four or fewer candidates in a primary race, all will advance to the general election, the Elections Division said. Almost all legislative races have four or fewer candidates. Seven races have only one candidate who showed up to run.
Jason Grenn, executive director of Alaskans for Better Elections, which advocated for the new electoral process, said the changes to the system are intended to help break down barriers for people who want to run. In the past, for example, a candidate who wanted to run outside the party structure had to collect signatures to be put on the ballot, he noted.
There are other factors involved in the decision to run, he said, such as moving to Juneau, quitting his job or his legislative pay.
“Our team didn’t expect to see 10 or 12 people in every race,” he said. “And we’ve heard people say, ‘I’m running because of these changes’ or ‘I can run now because these changes happened’.”
The August primary also includes races for the US House, US Senate and Governor.
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