The deadline for candidates to file for office isn’t until tomorrow, but here are some of the State House races that are already drawing our attention.
State House District 21 – West Anchorage
The incumbent here is former Anchorage Mayor and current Democrat Rep. Matt Claman. Republican Marilynn Stewart is challenging him.
Nobody I’ve spoken with on either side has been impressed with their campaigning skills, this probably comes down to which way the district leans. It leans slightly Democratic. For lack of a better option Claman is the favorite.
State House District 24 – Southwest Anchorage
This is Rep. Craig Johnson’s district, and he is a safe bet for re-election. I hear very, very strong rumors, that he will be making a last-minute announcement to run for Senate. That leaves this heavily Republican-leaning district up for grabs. Any number of potential candidates, too many to mention, could take a shot here.
The real takeaway is that whoever wins the Republican primary, wins the district.
State House District 26 – Southeast Anchorage
This district leans heavily to the right; the fight here is only in the Republican primary. The incumbent is longtime Rep, Bob Lynn and the challenger is former Assemblyman Chris Birch.
Lynn is an enigma. He gets elected year after year after year and for the life of me, I can’t understand why Republicans keep voting for him. He is one of the least productive reps in Juneau, yet he the district keeps sending him back.
He’ll get a real test this year. Birch is an energetic and engaging campaigner, well known by his service on the Assembly, who also fits the district ideologically.
Birch has to be the favorite, right?
State House District 28 – Hillside (Anchorage)
Another district that has already seen its share of drama, incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Hawker had filed to run for re-election, but announced he was dropping out after public anger mounted to the Anchorage LIO deal he orchestrated.
With Hawker out of the race, it is now between moderate former Anchorage Assemblywoman Jennifer Johnston and former Florida congressional candidate Ross Bieling.
The Democrats are offering Shirley Cote, but you can ignore that, Republicans will win this race.
Bieling just last week made news by being declared ineligible to run by virtue of not having lived in the state for the required three years prior to running. He says he filed his paperwork too early and now fully qualifies, but still, being literally called not Alaska enough by Division of Elections can’t be a good thing.
This race is a toss up between Bieling and Johnston. They will both raise money and appear to be active campaigners. The edge, slim as it is, probably goes to Johnston right now. She is the better-known quantity in the district.
State House District 30 – Kenai/Soldotna
Incumbent Republican Rep. Kurt Olson is retiring. That has spurred a wide open Republican primary including former Rep. Kelly Wolf, Kenai City Manager Rick Koch, and Soldotna Councilman Keith Baxter.
This looks to be a real primary race. The only thing I know here is that Kelly Wolf won’t win.
There is a declared Democrat running in Shauna Thornton, but this is one of the truest Republican strongholds in the state. Whoever wins the GOP primary wins this seat.
State House District 31 – Southern Kenai Peninsula
Rep. Paul Seaton is the incumbent in this district, and he appears to be running for re-election. His election history doesn’t suggest he is in danger. However, he has been somewhat publicly teaming with moderate House Republicans and Democrats — A group some refer to as the Musk Ox caucus — to go around the Republican Majority Leadership in pursuing more moderate policies. That has angered party insiders who would love nothing more than to replace him with a party loyalist.
It’s not surprising then that he has drawn two challengers including Homer Mayor Beth Wythe and the more Tea Party-ish John Cox.
I continue to get the sense Seaton is as popular as he’s been in the past. He also has two challengers to split the vote of those angry with him plays to his advantage. Seaton is the favorite here.
The Dems at this point don’t have anyone filed.
State House District 32 – Kodiak and Coastal Alaska
Incumbent Republican Rep. Louise Stutes is another member of that pesky Musk Ox caucus who seemingly has no problem collaborating with the Governor and House Dems. She faces both an Independent challenger in Duncan Fields and a Democrat in Brent Watkins.
Three-way races are difficult to judge. The winner of this race will probably be between Stutes and Fields, but we’ll have to wait and see how the race develops before getting a feel for which has the upper hand.
State House District 36 – Ketchikan/Southeast Alaska
Independent Incumbent Rep. Dan Ortiz currently only has a Republican challenger in Ketchikan City Councilman Bob SIlvertson.
The Ketchikan House seat has been a Republican seat for years, and Ketchikan can be a Republican hotspot at times, so all things being equal I would tend to lean this seat to the Republican. However there is no Democrat currently in the race and Ortiz, will get all the advantages incumbency has to offer.
This is also the year, if there ever was one, to run as an Independent, so if all these dynamics hold, I give the advantage here to Ortiz for re-election.