Kenai Peninsula voters will have a choice in the Aug. 21 primary of two Republicans running for state Senate, three candidates for the northern peninsula’s House district, four vying for the southern peninsula’s House district, and an unopposed incumbent for the House district representing the Kenai and Soldotna area.
In District 31, representing the area south of Soldotna to the north shore of Kachemak Bay, three Republican candidates — John Cox of Anchor Point, Sarah Vance of Homer, and Henry Kroll of Soldotna — filed to run against incumbent Rep. Paul Seaton (R-Homer). Seaton has served 16 years as a Republican, though the past session he was a member of the Democratic-led House majority. For the August primary, he filed as a nonpartisan candidate running unopposed in the Democratic primary. Republican Party officials had criticized Seaton for joining the House majority and attempted to keep him from running as a Republican in the primary.
Incumbent Rep. Gary Knopp (R-Kenai) is unopposed in the race for House District 30, representing the Kenai and Soldotna area. Knopp served on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly before his election to the House in 2016.
In District 29 — representing communities north of Funny River and along the Seward Highway from Turnagain Arm to Seward — incumbent Rep. Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski) is vacating the seat he has held since 2001. Chenault had planned to enter the governor’s race, but dropped out with a Facebook post Thursday evening.
“There are several factors that led to my decision not to pursue the governor’s office, most are personal and there are other reasons I would rather not discuss,” Chenault wrote on Facebook.
The candidates to replace Chenault are all first-time state office seekers. They consist of two Republican candidates — Wayne Ogle and Ben Carpenter, both of Nikiski — and independent Shawn Butler of Hope running in the Democratic primary.
The Clarion profiled Butler — a retired military officer and assistant computer science professor at University of Alaska Anchorage — in its May 24 issue, and Carpenter — also a retired military officer and owner of a peony farm — in its May 18 issue.
Ogle, who filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission on Wednesday, said he hadn’t wanted to run against Chenault and waited to see if the incumbent would try again for his old job instead of governor before declaring his candidacy. Ogle is in the second year of his second three-year term on the Borough Assembly and is presently the group’s president. If elected, the assembly would appoint a replacement to fill out the remainder of Ogle’s term.
“I was fully expecting Mr. Chenault to run this time and I would fulfill my assembly seat, then decide after that what to do,” Ogle said. “If he’s not running and it’s a vacant seat, I feel there needs to be an experienced hand, as far as being a successor to Mike Chenault. And I consider myself a person with the experience to do that.”
Ogle said overseeing state work on the district’s infrastructure needs — flood control in Seward, the relocation of the Sterling Highway in Cooper Landing, and the North Slope gasline project’s effects on Nikiski — would be high priorities for him in office.
“I think the important thing in all these projects is to make sure the community has an opportunity to weigh in on project details,” he said.
Ronald Gillham, of Soldotna, will run in the Republican primary against incumbent Sen. Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna), a former mayor of Soldotna who has held the Senate seat since 2012.
Gillham was born in Arizona and grew up in California before moving to Alaska in 1985. He’s an equipment operator on the North Slope, and previously worked for pipeline service and construction contractor VECO and owned and operated a halibut charter boat.
Gillham said his policy ideas include paying the Permanent Fund dividend under the traditional calculation based on earnings — which would have produced a dividend about twice the size of last year’s payment — limiting legislators to two terms, and relocating the Alaska Legislature to somewhere on the road system.
He also spoke against the 2016 criminal reforms of Senate Bill 91, which decrease the likelihood of jail sentences for some non-violent crimes and release some suspects charged with crimes under a pre-trial probationary system rather than setting bail. Gillham said he’s disappointed that legislators the past two sessions have not repealed SB 91, but instead amended it. Legislators this session removed the requirement that judges order pre-trial release for some suspects charged with certain misdemeanors and felonies.
“SB 91 needs to go away and start new — it failed and even though they tried to put a Band-Aid on it, it’s like putting a Band-Aid on an amputated arm,” Gillham said.
Reach Ben Boettger at firstname.lastname@example.org