Races for State Legislature come into focus after filing deadline

Incumbents Sen. Jesse Bjorkman and Reps. Justin Ruffridge and Sarah Vance are all facing challengers

Local races for the State Legislature have come into focus following Saturday’s filing deadline for the election. Incumbents Sen. Jesse Bjorkman and Reps. Justin Ruffridge and Sarah Vance are all facing challengers, with as many as four names set to be on the ballot for the busiest races come August’s primary election.

Incumbent Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, has represented Senate District D since 2022, and will have three opponents in the election. The seat covers the northern Kenai Peninsula, including Kenai, Soldotna and Nikiski.

Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, who has served in the House of Representatives since 2019, is not running for reelection to his seat but is instead challenging Bjorkman. Also running for the seat are Soldotna’s Andy Cizek, of the Alaska Independence Party, and Tina Wegener, a Democrat from Sterling.

House District 8, previously held by Carpenter, covers Nikiski, Sterling and Cooper Landing. Bill Elam and John Hillyer have both filed to run. Elam currently serves on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, while Hillyer is a retired Air Force pilot.

Incumbent Rep. Justin Ruffridge, R-Soldotna, will face Ron Gillham, also a Soldotna Republican, for House District 7, which covers Kenai and Soldotna. The race is a rematch of a 2022 race where Ruffridge unseated Gillham, who had previously held the seat since 2020, when his opponent Gary Knopp died in a plane crash.

House District 6, which covers the southern Kenai Peninsula including Homer, Anchor Point and Kasilof, has three challengers facing incumbent Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer. Dawson Slaughter, an Anchor Point Republican and president of the Anchor Point Chamber of Commerce, began a campaign in January. Alana Greear, an elementary teacher at Kachemak Selo School running nonpartisan, entered the race in April. Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly President Brent Johnson began a campaign roughly two weeks after Greear, also running nonpartisan.

Seward resident Leighton Radner, a registered member of the Libertarian party, has filed to run against incumbent Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, for House District 5, which includes Seward as well as other communities not on the Kenai Peninsula like Kodiak and Cordova.

Senate District C, which covers the southern Kenai Peninsula — including Homer and Seward — as well as other parts of Southcentral Alaska like Kodiak and Cordova, is not up for election until 2026 and is held by Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak.

More information about the candidates can be found at elections.alaska.gov. Many have social media pages or websites for their campaigns.

Voter registration deadline is July 21 for the 2024 primary election on Aug. 20.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.