A Board of Fisheries member is planning to challenge Rep. Paul Seaton (R-Homer) for his seat in the Alaska Legislature.
Robert Ruffner of Kasilof filed a letter of intent with the Alaska Public Offices Commission with the intention of running for the District 31 seat in the House of Representatives. He said he plans to run as a Republican and to focus on the budget issues still facing the state.
On Tuesday, another Republican Party candidate, Sarah Vance of Homer, officially filed to run for the District 31 party nomination. Vance had earlier filed a letter of intent.
Though Ruffner enjoys working on the Board of Fisheries, he said he was considering what the future would look like as the board is constantly enveloped in controversy and no one is guaranteed to serve on it long-term. In addition to fisheries management, Ruffner is also an active member of the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Planning Commission and Road Service Area board as well as chairing the borough’s ongoing Material Site Working Group addressing the conflicts between gravel pits and nearby residents.
“I think that experience that I have of sitting on the planning commission and the road board (doesn’t) get any more local government than that,” he said. “And at the fish board level, you’re looking at the whole state. I’ve been fortunate to have that position to meet a lot of the mayors and community leaders across the whole state.”
Watching the inaction on the budget for the past several years has been frustrating, especially as the Legislature has not been working on cutting expenses this year as they have in the past several, he said. The House of Representatives bipartisan coalition, in which Seaton holds a leadership position, was an interesting idea to start but has failed to deliver any solutions, Ruffner said.
“I see these issues that we’re facing right now as needing some dedicated attention,” he said. “We really are at a crucial point in the state’s history … those are some big, sweeping fundamental issues that we need to address. We just don’t have any more time.”
In her first try at political office, Vance unsuccessfully ran for Homer City Council in October 2017, coming in third behind Caroline Venuti and Rachel Lord in the two-seat race. Vance gained attention last year in her role as spokesperson for Heartbeat of Homer, the citizen group that organized in an attempt to recall former Homer council members David Lewis and Catriona Reynolds and current council member Donna Aderhold. That attempt failed.
In a press release, Vance said she “supports a full restoration of the Permanent Fund, reducing government overreach, and expanding opportunities for all Alaskans.”
“(It’s) time our district has a leader who understands the priorities of the people,” Vance said. “… I will be your voice in Juneau by prioritizing economic development; educating our youth, empowering our workforce, and advocating for our seniors.”
One other candidate, John Cox of Anchor Point, has also filed to run as a Republican for the same seat. Seaton, who has served in the Legislature since 2002, filed his letter of intent to run for reelection with the Alaska Public Offices Commission in July 2017. Seaton defeated two contenders in the 2016 primary, including Cox and former Homer Mayor Beth Wythe, earning a shoo-in in the general because no candidates ran in the opposing parties.