PALMER — Judging by the raft of candidates who filed to run in Valley elections ahead of Monday’s deadline, this is shaping up to be an interesting election season.
Every single Valley legislator up for re-election this year — and only Sen. Charlie Huggins is not — drew a challenger, and open seats drew multiple candidates.
Senate District E
Seat E stretches from Hatcher Pass to Chickaloon to Talkeetna, drawing in Houston and parts of Meadow Lakes along the way. Incumbent Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, looks like he will sit out the primary this year. No Republican filed to challenge him. But he’ll face two candidates in the general election. Wasilla Democrat Mikse Willoya-Marx has filed to challenge him, but also Warren Keogh, a former Mat-Su Borough Assemblyman from Chickaloon. Keogh chose to run as a non-affiliated candidate, and so he will face the winner of the primary in the general election.
Senate District F
This seat represents Palmer, Chugiak, Butte, Fairview and other communities in the Southern Valley and north Anchorage. It doesn’t have an incumbent. In the Republican primary Palmer Mayor DeLena Johnson will battle Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, who retired from the House to run for a Senate seat. The winner in the primary will face Democrat and retired educator Pat Chesbro in the general election.
House District 7
The district represents parts of Wasilla and some unincorporated areas. Incumbent Republican Rep. Lynn Gattis drew a challenge from Wasilla Mayor Verne Rupright, who has reached his mayoral term limit. The mayor chose to skip the primary and run as a non-affiliated candidate. There aren’t any other candidates in the race, so this head-to-head challenge will be decided in the general election.
House District 8
District 8 encompasses Big Lake, parts of Meadow Lakes and other unincorporated areas. Republican incumbent Rep. Mark Neuman didn’t draw a challenger in the primary but — like Dunleavy — has two looking to face him in the general. Both have faced Neuman before. Democrat Pam Rahn lost to him in the general election in 2012. Stephen Jacobson, who is running as non-affiliated this year, lost a bid to him in the 2010 primary.
House District 9
Representing Chickaloon, Hatcher Pass, Sutton, and the rest of the Valley’s eastern stretches, the incumbent here is Rep. Eric Feige. Feige is facing two challengers in the primary — Mat-Su Borough Assemblyman Jim Colver and George Rauscher, a Sutton resident active in that area’s community council. Rauscher lost to Feige in the last primary election for that seat, but took home more than 40 percent of the votes.
House District 10
The district wraps around Wasilla to the north before heading all the way to Talkeetna. The incumbent here is Republican Rep. Wes Keller, and it’s another race that won’t get interesting until the general. Roger Purcell, formerly mayor of Houston and an inescapable presence at Valley political events, has filed to run for the seat as a non-affiliated candidate. A Democrat has also filed, one with political experience — former Mat-Su Borough School Board member Neal Lacy who lost re-election bid to Talkeetna’s Donna Dearman last year.
House District 11
The seat mostly representing Palmer is currently held by Republican Rep. Shelley Hughes. Hughes’ challenger this year is Democrat Pete LaFrance, whose last attempt to enter local politics was filing for an open seat on the school board.
House District 12
The district represents Chugiak, Butte, and Fairview. Mat-Su Borough Assemblyman Ron Arvin publicly announced his intent to seek the seat the day Stoltze announced his candidacy for Senate. In the Republican primary he’ll face Cathy Tilton, who is currently a legislative staffer and is well-known in the Valley business community.
In the general, either Tilton or Arvin will face Democrat Gretchen Whemhoff of Chugiak, an educator with 24 years of experience, 21 of those at Chugiak High School.
Statewide seats up for election this year include the governor, lieutenant governor, U.S. Senator and U.S. Representative. Battles in those races have been ongoing for the better part of a year. None of the major candidates grabbing headlines in those battles for the Republican nomination is from the Valley.
But there are some Valley candidates who have filed to run.
One of the two candidate vying in the primary fight for the Alaska Independence Party nomination and the chance to square off in the general election against Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Begich is former Valley legislator Vic Kohring, who left office in disgrace in 2006 to focus on his legal defense and in 2011 pleaded guilty to taking a bribe from oilfield services company CEO Bill Allen.
Also seeking that seat as a non-affiliated candidate is local gadfly Sid Hill, who can often be found on street corners, usually in Palmer, holding his sign calling for the impeachment of U.S. President Barack Obama.
In the Republican primary fight — which includes Joe Miller, Mead Treadwell and Dan Sullivan — there’s also a local face, that of John Jaramillo of Palmer.
In the governor’s race, perennial candidate Gerald Heikes of Palmer has again filed to run. And, finally, a local educator who popped into the race early to run as a Democrat, Bob Williams, is still seeking to be the state’s lieutenant governor.
Contact Andrew Wellner at 352-2270 or firstname.lastname@example.org.