As of the filing deadline Monday, the candidate list for the August primary election is pretty well set. There may be some write-ins or independents running in November, but these are the names we have now.
1. Only two candidates from the Alaska Independence Party are running, both for U.S. Senate, and one of them is ex-Rep. Vic Kohring. (The other is fellow Wasillian Zachary Kile.) His attempted return to grace last year, when he ran for Wasilla City Council, ended with Kohring losing by a 2-to-1 margin. Maybe his politeness will fit better in the U.S. Senate, where “minimal brain power and an unwillingness to learn,” as Michael Carey put it, are no barrier to success. (Sorry if that's a cheap shot; Carey's comment pre-dates Kohring's transformative experience.)
2. The Libertarian party is running candidates for all statewide races but only one for legislature, namely House District 19 against incumbent Democrat Rep. Geran Tarr, who would otherwise be unopposed.
3. HD19 is part of a swath of Anchorage that the AK GOP is conceding, leaving Democratic Reps. Andy Josephson, Harriet Drummond, and Chris Tuck unchallenged. Some rural Democrats are likewise unopposed: Reps. Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham, Bob Herron of Bethel, and Neal Foster of Nome, although they caucus with the Republican-led majority. Democrats are leaving only three incumbent representatives unchallenged: Lynn Gattis of Wasilla, Dan Saddler of Eagle River, and Paul Seaton of Homer.
4. In fact, the Bethel and Nome districts have no legislative contests at all, with incumbent Sens. Lyman Hoffman and Donny Olson unopposed. Likewise, Republicans are skipping Midtown Anchorage altogether, giving Sen. Berta Gardner a free pass (her district also includes Josephson’s and Drummond’s HD 17 & 18). The only senate race Democrats couldn’t find a candidate for is in Soldotna, where Sen. Peter Micciche can coast to re-election.
5. A few primary winners will automatically win in November. Only Democrats filed in downtown Anchorage and the North Slope, where Reps. Les Gara and Bennie Nageak are incumbents. In the Ketchikan/Wrangell district, only Republicans filed for the open seat to replace the retiring Rep. Peggy Wilson.
6. Six senate seats are not on the ballot, after re-redistricting left them largely intact. Therefore, Sens. John Coghill, Johnny Ellis, Charlie Huggins, Bert Stedman, and Bill Wielechowski will not have their terms interrupted. Wielechowski made noises about running for governor or lt. gov., and he’s worked hard to keep a high profile, but it turns out he’s not on the ballot for anything! The sixth seat, if I’m not mistaken, is Sen. Hollis French, who’s running for lieutenant governor but has a fallback if he loses.
7. Re-redistricting is squeezing North Pole, forcing Reps. Tammie Wilson and Doug Isaacson to face each other in the Republican primary. That also leaves House District 6, southeast of Fairbanks, wide open.
8. Ex-Sen. Mike Miller of North Pole is challenging incumbent Sen. Click Bishop in the GOP primary. Another former lawmaker, ex-Rep. Harry Crawford (recently re-elected to the Chugach Electric board), is challenging incumbent Sen. Cathy Giessel in District N, which now combines her Hillside area with Crawford’s old Muldoon/Scenic Park area.
9. Sen. Lesil McGuire withdrew from the race for lieutenant governor. That doesn’t give Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan a free ride in the GOP primary, though; ex-Rep. Kelly Wolf of Kenai is also listed, though I don’t know what his plan is.
10. With Rep. Bill Stoltze running for senate in the seat vacated by the retirement of Sen. Fred Dyson, the Chugiak/Mat-Su district is wide open. The HD 12 race has drawn two Republicans, Ron Arvin and Cathy Tilton, both of Wasilla, and one Democrat, my high school English teacher, Gretchen Wehmhoff. She was my teacher all four years, actually, as adviser to the student newspaper, an experience which was fresh on my résumé when I applied at KENI. Now retired from teaching, she won’t have an easy entry into politics. Although extremely popular at Chugiak High, she can’t count on that at the polls. That is, fond memories didn’t lead enough students to vote for Chugiak High principal Bill Kuhlmann when he ran as a Democrat in the same area in 1996. Republicans haven’t lost a race in Chugiak-Eagle River since 1994 – when independent Rep. Ed Willis won re-election against… Wayne Maloney, the guy who read my résumé two years later, and whose seat I’ve filled ever since.