The filing deadline to run for the Legislature is approaching, most incumbents are seeking re-election

The June 1 filing deadline to run for one of the 50 legislative seats up this year is just over two months away. All 40 House seats and half of the 20 Senate seats are up. All ten senators who are up have filed to run for re-election. Thirty-four of the 40 House incumbents have filed for re-election.

In 2022, 59 of of the 60 legislative seats were up due to redistricting. Several incumbents were paired and some did not seek re-election. This resulted in significant turnover in the House, with 17 freshman representatives being elected who had never served in the Legislature. Six new members were elected to the Senate. There will be significantly less turnover this election cycle.

One incumbent House member, Representative Ben Carpenter (R – Nikiski), filed to challenge Senator Jesse Bjorkman (R – Nikiski). Another House incumbent, Representative Jennie Armstrong (D – Anchorage), filed a letter of intent but later announced she would not seek re-election. Democrat Carolyn Hall filed to run for that seat.

Representative Laddie Shaw (R – Anchorage) has not filed for re-election. Shaw moved to a new home outside his district and is now registered in Representative Tom McKay’s (R – Anchorage), meaning he will not be seeking re-election. Republican Lee Ellis filed to run for Shaw’s seat.

Representatives Thomas Baker (R – Kotzebue), David Eastman (R – Wasilla), and Andi Story (D – Juneau) have not yet filed for re-election. They have until June 1 to file. Independent Qaiyaan Harcharek and Democrat Robyn Burke have both filed letters of intent with the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) to run for Baker’s seat. Republican Jubilee Underwood officially filed with the Division of Elections (DOE) to run for Eastman’s seat. No one has yet filed for Story’s seat.

These ten senators are up for re-election. All have either filed letters of intent with APOC or have officially filed with the DOE:

  1. Senator Jesse Kiehl (D – Juneau)
  2. Senator Jesse Bjorkman (R – Nikiski)
  3. Senator James Kaufman (R – Anchorage)
  4. Senator Matt Claman (D – Anchorage)
  5. Senator Forrest Dunbar (D – Anchorage)
  6. Senator Kelly Merrick (R – Eagle River)
  7. Senator David Wilson (R – Wasilla)
  8. Senator Scott Kawasaki (D – Fairbanks)
  9. Senator Click Bishop (R – Fairbanks)
  10. Senator Donny Olson (D – Golovin)

There’s been speculation that Bishop may not seek re-election if he chooses to run for governor in 2026. If Bishop decides not to seek re-election, Representative Mike Cronk (R – Tok/Northway) would likely run for his seat.

As of now, Kiehl, Claman, Dunbar, and Olson do not have any opposition.

Bjorkman faces a tough race against Carpenter in his very conservative district. Bjorkman joined with Democrats in a bipartisan coalition and voted to override Governor Mike Dunleavy’s (R – Alaska) veto of SB 140.

Kaufman currently faces an easy race against perennial Democratic candidate Janice Park. There’s been chatter Representative Calvin Schrage (I – Anchorage) may run against him. If he does, this would be a race to watch.

Merrick has two Republican challengers, former Representative Ken McCarty and Jared Goecker. Wilson also has two Republican opponents, Stephen Wright and Mat-Su Borough Assembly member Rob Yundt. Kawasaki faces a tough race against Republican Leslie Hajdukovich as he was redistricted into a more conservative district and it’s a presidential election year.

The current bipartisan Senate majority has 17 members. Even if Bjorkman, Wilson, and Kawasaki (who are all members) lose, a smaller coalition would likely still form. In that scenario there would be eight Democrats plus Senators Gary Stevens (R – Kodiak), Bert Stedman (R – Sitka), and Cathy Giessel (R – Anchorage). Eleven members are required to form a majority in the Senate. If Merrick were to go down and or Bishop doesn’t run, then things could get interesting in the Senate.

The House is more complicated. The current 23-member Republican-led majority is very shaky. Three of its members, Representatives Bryce Edgmon (I – Dillingham), Neal Foster (D – Nome), and CJ McCormick (D – Bethel), could easily join a bipartisan coalition. Thomas Baker is also in the majority, but was appointed by Dunleavy to fill now-North Slope Borough Mayor Josiah Patkotak’s seat. Even if Baker files, it’s extremely unlikely he would win after his vote to uphold Dunleavy’s veto of SB 140. Whoever replaces him would likely join a coalition.

Several Republican representatives are in tough races. Some are facing conservative challengers while others are facing progressive challengers.

  1. Representative Julie Coulombe (R – Anchorage) is facing a rematch against independent Walter Featherly. Coulombe narrowly beat him in 2022. Coulombe voted to uphold Dunleavy’s veto of SB 140, which will be a major issue in her race.
  2. Representative David Eastman, if he files, will face Republican Jubilee Underwood. She serves on the Mat-Su Borough School Board and has already garnered a lot of support. If she wins, the Republicans would pick up a number as Eastman is not part of their majority.
  3. Representative Tom McKay (R – Anchorage) is facing a rematch against Democrat Denny Wells. McKay narrowly beat him in 2022. McKay, like Coulombe, voted to uphold Dunleavy’s veto of SB 140, which will also be a major issue in his race.
  4. Reprersentive Jesse Sumner (R – Wasilla) is facing a rematch against Republican Steve Menard. Sumner beat Menard in 2022. But Sumner voted to override Dunleavy’s veto of SB 140. That will be an issue in his conservative district.
  5. Reprersentive Stanley Wright (R – Anchorage) faces a rematch against Democrat Ted Eischeid. Wright narrowly beat him in 2022. Wright voted to override Dunleavy’s veto of SB 140, which will give him some cover in his split district. But this is one of the seats the Democrats are going to focus on.

Depending on how these races go, the House could again have a hard time organizing after the election. After the 2018 and 2020 elections, the House did not organize until a month into session. Bipartisan coalitions were the result in both of those cases. After the 2022 election, they organized on the second day of session. This resulted in the Republicans taking back control after six years of bipartisan coalitions in the House.

The House could go either way next year. But whether the Republicans keep power or a bipartisan coalition forms, either majority is sure to be a narrow one.

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Mark Kelsey
14 days ago

If Sumner runs, he will win. Extremist noise on the far right should not be confused with actual voting numbers. The district is filled with high-density residential neighborhoods populated by families with school-aged children who appreciate Sumner’s defense of public education.

Mark Kelsey
14 days ago

Click Bishop would be an outstanding governor. His brand of quiet competence, nonpartisan professionalism and real-world knowledge of issues affecting Alaskans would be a welcome relief after the sophomoric drama and embarrassing tribal amateurishness of the Dunleavy administration.