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The Alaska Legislature is going to look very different next year

A combination of redistricting and legislative incumbents not seeking re-election will result in a Legislature that looks quite different next year. Due to redistricting, which occurs every ten years per the Alaska Constitution, 59 of 60 legislative seats are up. Normally, 50 of 60 seats are up every two years – all 40 House seats, which are two-year terms and 10 Senate seats, which are four-year terms.

The filing deadline to run for office is June 1, less than a month away.

Three legislators, or 5% of the Legislature, have announced they will not seek re-election:

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  1. Senator Natasha von Imhof (R – Anchorage), who was elected in 2016. Redistricting put her and Senator Mia Costello (R – Anchorage) in the same Senate district.
  2. Representative Steve Thompson (R – Fairbanks), who was elected in 2010.
  3. Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D – Sitka), who was elected in 2012.

Ten House incumbents were paired, meaning five current representatives will be gone next year. Some are already running for higher office.

  1. Representatives Chris Tuck (D – Anchorage) and Andy Josephson (D – Anchorage) were paired. Tuck is running for the open Senate seat, which could change due to ongoing litigation. Originally, Tuck was in Senator Elvi Gray-Jackson’s (D – Anchorage) Senate district, but that changed with the updated Senate pairings. Former Representative Craig Johnson filed for the open House seat which is part of the open Senate district Tuck is in. Johnson said he’s looking at his options. If Johnson runs for the open Senate seat, Tuck will have a real race. So far, Josephson looks good in the new House district.
  2. Representatives Sara Rasmussen (R – Anchorage) and Matt Claman (D – Anchorage) were paired. It would take a miracle for Rasmussen to win this seat as the combined precincts in that district resulted in Joe Biden winning by 15% in 2020. There’s been talk Claman might run against Costello for the Senate seat. Today, when asked if he’s running for the Senate seat he smiled and told me, “I am running for re-election to the legislature.” Even if Claman runs for the Senate, the Democrats will get a Democrat or progressive to run for his House seat. They won’t give up a solid Democratic seat. Rasmussen could possibly run for the Senate seat as well. Costello has positioned herself as a hyper conservative and Biden won the Senate district by 6.7%.
  3. Representatives Zack Fields (D – Anchorage) and Harriet Drummond (D – Anchorage) were paired. They have both filed to run for the seat, so one will be gone. Fields is a fierce campaigner and will have a lot of labor support. Drummond will also have progressive support. Tough to call but Fields is probably the favorite.
  4. Representatives Kelly Merrick (R – Eagle River) and Ken McCarty (R – Eagle River) are both running for the open Senate seat, so they will both be gone from the House. However, if the court rules the that two Eagle River House districts need to be paired with each other, that could change their calculations.
  5. Representative Christopher Kurka (R – Wasilla) and David Eastman (R – Wasilla) were paired. Kurka is running for governor, so he’s gone. Eastman has filed for re-election but he said he’s considering challenging Senator David Wilson (R – Wasilla) for the Senate seat. If he does, that is another House member down.

So, at the very minimum the House will lose eight members: Thompson, Kreiss-Tomkins, Tuck, Rasmussen or Claman, Fields or Drummond, Merrick, McCarty (Merrick/McCarty could change depending on redistricting), and Kurka. But some incumbents were put in difficult districts. For example, Representative Grier Hopkins (D – Fairbanks) is now in a House district that Donald Trump won by 26% in 2020. Like Rasmussen, it would take a miracle for him to win. So he is likely done.

Representative David Nelson (R – Anchorage), who is in his first term, is in a tough district. Biden won his new district by almost 4% in 2020. He’s picked up a progressive opponent, Cliff Groh, who has been campaigning hard. Nelson has aligned himself with the more conservatives Republicans in the House minority, which makes him vulnerable in his race.

Senator Josh Revak (R – Anchorage) and Representative Adam Wool (D – Fairbanks) are both running for Congress in the special election. Revak has also filed to run in the regular election. Wool has not. Revak seems committed to Congress. They both need to choose by June 1 if they will run for Congress or their legislative seats in the regular election. Representative James Kaufman (R – Anchorage) will certainly run for Revak’s Senate seat if Revak is out. But that district could also change depending how the court rules on redistricting. Wool said he will decide soon if he runs for Congress or the Legislature. Wool is safe in his new House district as it went for Biden by almost 10% in 2020.

Representative Tiffany Zulkosky (D – Bethel) has not yet field for re-election. Recently, Bethel Mayor Mark Springer filed to run for the seat. Earlier today I asked Zulkosky if she was running for re-election. She just gave me a stone cold look and did not respond. Zulkosky has been frustrated with the House and many of her majority colleagues, so it would not be a surprise if she does not run for re-election.

Several other representatives could face tough elections. The House is likely to have at least ten new members, or a 25% turnover. And it could end up being even more than that.

The Senate, with two open seats and two paired senators, is also poised to have a significant turnover. Von Imhof is not running for re-election and Revak is likely all in for Congress. If Claman or Rasmussen runs against Costello, she could end up in a tough race.

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Senate President Peter Micciche (R – Soldotna), who nearly lost the 2018 Republican primary to now-Representative Ron Gillham (R – Soldotna), is being challenged by Tuckerman Babcock. Micciche says he is running, but his friend Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member Jesse Bjorkman also filed to run. Even if Micciche runs, he will face an uphill battle for re-election.

If Senators Roger Holland (R – Anchorage) and Lora Reinbold (R – Eagle River) remain paired (that could change due to pending redistricting ligation), one of them will be gone. And regardless, former Senator Cathy Giessel, who has filed to run for the Senate, lives in Holland’s House district. So he will face her whether or not the Senate pairings change.

Senator Scott Kawasaki (D – Fairbanks) is in a new Senate district that Trump won by more than 12%. He is being challenged by Fairbanks Mayor Jim Matherly, a Republican. While Kawasaki is a fierce campaigner, he faces an uphill battle in his new district.

The Senate could also see a 25% or more turnover. More candidates will file between now and June 1, and redistricting could impact how the Senate map ends up. But regardless, the Legislature will see a significant turnover next year – similar to what happened in 2019 when there was roughly a 25% turnover in the Legislature. If you’ve been paying attention the last few years, you are aware how that has gone. Next year is shaping up to be another wild ride in Juneau.

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Lynn Willis
16 days ago

We seriously need to consider placing “None of the above” on the ballot at least to send a message.

Actual credentialed journalist (retired)
15 days ago
Reply to  Lynn Willis

Who would be receiving that message, exactly? Participate or perish, no other option.

Erik Wassell
15 days ago

OK, I’m feeling stupid here:

You say 59 seats are up for reelection. Does that mean the Senators who were elected in 2020 only had 2 year terms?

Also, which seat isn’t up, and why?

Erik Wassell
14 days ago
Reply to  Jeff Landfield

So are the other 10 seats that normally would have been up this year also truncated and up in 2024? Otherwise, wouldn’t there be 19 seats up in 2026?

Sean P. Ryan
14 days ago
Reply to  Erik Wassell

The senators elected in 2018 would have had their term normally expire in 2022. The exception to that was Josh Revak: since he was appointed to replace a senator elected in 2018 who subsequently died in office, he had to run for the remainder of the term in 2020. As for the future, 9 of the 19 senators will be elected this year for two-year terms with the remainder elected for four years, which will be staggered. Beyond this year, the scenario you refer to will only occur if the courts order the Redistricting Board to start over again after… Read more »

Helpful nobody
15 days ago
Reply to  Erik Wassell

Donny Olson isn’t up (western AK/Nome). His was the only senate district not deemed substantially changed by this year’s redistricting

14 days ago

Get to Know Louie Flora running for Representative

14 days ago
Reply to  Sam

Louie Flora-Homer