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We Build Alaska

The Sunday Minefield – June 2, 2024

The June 1 candidate filing deadline has come and gone for the ten Senate and 40 House seats that are up this November. There were several last minute surprises that included a plethora of last minute candidates and a few incumbents who announced they will not seek re-election. The field is now set for the primary, and in all but three cases the general (only three races having more than four candidates), though candidates can still withdraw from the primary or general. November is still five months away, but Republicans seem well poised to increase their control of the House and pick up seats in the Senate.

A friendly message and reminder to all our readers. The Landmine is made possible by myself and a team of awesome Alaskans. I recently returned from Juneau for my sixth session in a row reporting on the Legislature. We will again be providing in-depth coverage for both the primary and general elections. If you enjoy the content we provide, please consider making a one time or recurring monthly donation. You can click here to donate. We have a donation system that makes it super easy. We would really appreciate it. And thanks to everyone who has been supportive!

The Field is Set

A few weeks ago it appeared the 40-member House would have minimal turnover as only two members were not seeking re-election – Representatives Jennie Armstrong (D – Anchorage) and Laddie Shaw (R – Anchorage) – and one was running for the Senate – Representative Ben Carpenter (R – Nikiski). And all ten senators up had filed letters of intent for re-election. That all changed this week.

First, Representative Dan Ortiz (I – Ketchikan) announced he would not be seeking re-election, citing health reasons. Ortiz has not officially withdrawn yet. The deadline to withdraw from the primary is June 29. The deadline to withdraw from the general is September 9. Agnes Moran, who is well-known in Ketchikan, filed for the seat last minute. Grant Echohawk is also running for the seat. If Republican Jeremy Bynum – who challenged Ortiz in 2022 – wins the race, it will be a pickup for Republicans.

Representative Tom McKay (R – Anchorage), who was facing a tough rematch against Democrat Denny Wells (McKay beat him in 2022 by just seven votes), decided to pull a bait-and-switch at the last minute. McKay withdrew from the House race and instead filed to run against Senator Matt Claman (D – Anchorage). Former Republican Senator Mia Costello filed for McKay’s House seat. With McKay out and Dustin Darden in the race running as a Democrat, Wells can’t be happy. Costello is a hard worker and previously represented the area when she served in the House. Claman should easily win his Senate seat with two Republican opponents and a huge war chest.

Senator Click Bishop (R – Fairbanks) also announced this week that he would not be seeking re-election. He has not said this yet but the likely reason is he plans to run for governor in 2026. This resulted in Representative Mike Cronk (R – Tok/Northway) filing to run for the open Senate seat, triggering another departure form the House. With Bishop’s announcement, both his Senate seat and Cronk’s House seat are now both jammed up with candidates. In fact, these are two of the three legislative races with more than four candidates. The other is Senator Kelly Merrick’s (R – Eagle River) with five candidates. Which means the primary will matter in these races as the top-four advance to the general. Both of these races will be lit!

Eight incumbents (16% of the 50 seats up) are running unopposed:

  1. Senator Jesse Kiehl (D – Juneau)
  2. Senator Donny Olson (D – Golovin)
  3. Representative Rebecca Himschoot (I – Sitka)
  4. Representative Sara Hannan (D – Juneau)
  5. Representative Zack Fields (D – Anchorage)
  6. Representative Dan Saddler (R – Eagle River)
  7. Representative DeLena Johnson (R – Palmer)
  8. House Speaker Cathy Tilton (R – Wasilla)

Twelve other incumbents (24% of the 50 seats up) have one opponent who they should easily defeat:

  1. Senator Forrest Dunbar (D – Anchorage)
  2. Representative Louise Stutes (R – Kodiak)
  3. Representative Calvin Schrage (I – Anchorage) (Republican and all around Loose Unit Joseph Lurtsema filed to run against him at the last minute)
  4. Representative Alyse Galvin (I – Anchorage)
  5. Representative Andrew Gray (D – Anchorage)
  6. Representative Jamie Allard (R – Eagle River)
  7. Representative George Rauscher (R – Sutton)
  8. Representative Will Stapp (R – Fairbanks)
  9. Representative Mike Prax (R – North Pole)
  10. Representative Frank Tomaszewski (R – Fairbanks)
  11. Representative Ashley Carrick (D – Fairbanks)
  12. Representative Bryce Edgmon (I – Dillingham)

Six Senate seats have more than two candidates, though Senators Claman and James Kaufman (R – Anchorage) should easily win re-election. Here are the Senate races to watch:

Thera are several competitive House races with just two candidates:

  1. Representative Andi Story (D – Juneau) vs. former Republican Representative Bill Thomas
  2. Representative Justin Ruffridge (R – Soldotna) vs. former Republican Representative Ron Gillham (2022 rematch)
  3. Republican Bill Elam vs. Republican John Hillyer (this is Representative Carpenter’s open seat)
  4. Representative Julie Coulombe (R – Anchorage) vs. independent Walter Featherly (2022 rematch)
  5. Representative Andy Josephson vs. Republican Heather Gottshall
  6. Democrat Carolyn Hall vs. independent Nick Moe (this is Representative Armstrong’s open seat). Nick Moe filed to run at the last minute. Hall was unopposed before that.
  7. Representative Cliff Groh (D – Anchorage) vs. former Republican Representative David Nelson (2022 rematch)
  8. Representative Donna Mears (D – Anchorage) vs. Republican Aimee Sims
  9. Representative Stanley Wright (R – Anchorage) vs. Democrat Ted Eischeid (2022 rematch)
  10. Representative David Eastman (R – Wasilla) vs. Republican Jubilee Underwood
  11. Representative Kevin McCabe (R – Big Lake) vs. Republican Doyle Holmes (2022 rematch)
  12. Representative Maxine Dibert (D – Fairbanks) vs. former Republican Representative Bart LeBon (2022 rematch)
  13. Representative Neal Foster (D – Nome) vs. AIP Tyler Ivanoff (2022 rematch)

There are several other interesting House races:

  1. Representative Sarah Vance (R – Homer) has three opponents.
  2. Four people are running for Representative Shaw’s seat.
  3. Representative Craig Johnson (R – Anchorage) has two opponents, the main one being former Republican Representative Chuck Kopp.
  4. Representative Genevieve Mina (D – Anchorage) has two opponents, though she should easily win her race.
  5. Representative Jesse Sumner (R – Wasilla) has three Republican opponents, two of which ran against him in 2022. One of them is Steve Menard, who Sumner hired to work for his office during the 2023 session.
  6. The six-way race for Representative Cronk’s seat. Four are Republicans, though Dana Mock seems to be the one Republicans will support.
  7. Representative CJ McCormick (D – Bethel) has three opponents, including Democrat Victoria Sosa, his ex-girlfriend!
  8. Representative Thomas Baker (I – Kotzebue), who recently switched to Undeclared from Republican, has two Democratic opponents – Robyn Burke and Saima Chase. After the way Baker voted this session, Burke or Chase will be the next representative for District 40.

There is a lot of time left between now and November. There are sure to be many developments and surprises as the election nears. Keep in mind this is a presidential election year, which means a higher voter turnout. In many cases, this will benefit Republicans. Stay tuned for more Landmine coverage on the election, as well as which races will affect organization next year.

This Week’s Loose Unit 

Between the McKay/Costello bait-and-switch and all the last minute filings, there were a lot of candidates this week. But one person really stood out. This week’s Loose Unit is John Hendrix, owner of Furie. First, Hendrix filed a defamation/slander lawsuit against Danny Davis, the owner of Escopeta and one of the overriding royalty interests in the Cook Inlet filed Hendrix operates. That alone is loose. But it got way looser.

Today, the ADN published a story, “Cook Inlet gas producer assails royalty rates as another seeks state financing.” In the story, Hendrix said he plans to abandon his $20 million drilling campaign in Cook Inlet this summer because the Legislature did not pass royalty relief. Think about that. After the cold snap and gas problems this winter, Hendrix goes full Loose Unit because the Legislature did not give him a handout. Maximum loose behavior!

Hendrix is probably reeling from the recent court decision that ruled against his attempt to massively reduce the property taxes he pays in Cook Inlet. It’s incredible to me that anyone takes this guy seriously.

If you have a nomination for this week’s Loose Unit, or if you have any political news, stories or gossip (or any old pics of politicians or public officials) please email me at jeff@alaskalandmine.com.

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Carol
12 days ago

I thought Mia Costello only represented the Matsu valley. Didn’t she chose to spend special session there as part of a right-wing political stunt instead of representing her constituents at the capitol?

Bob
9 days ago
Reply to  Carol

More importantly she ditched her job when she thought she was hot shit. Out of 120 day session she was present less than a third of the time. Taking vacations and seeing her family, on taxpayer dollars.

Akwhitty
12 days ago

I got my wood