This race has candidates-a-plenty, but only one playbook “I’m the most conservative conservative that you have ever met.”
On paper, there are five candidates running in the Northwestern corner of the Mat-Su for the House District 10 (HD 10) seat, four Republicans (Incumbent Republican Rep. Wes Keller, David Eastman, Andrew Wright, and Steve Menard) and one Democrat Christian Hartley.
In reality, this is a two-man race. No disrespect to the Democrat Hartley but Sen. Dan Sullivan took this district 2-1 against Sen. Mark Begich and Mitt Romney beat Pres. Obama by better than a 2.5-1 margin. A Democrat is just not winning, or even going to be competitive here.
Steve Menard is a Republican, and that is the only thing electable about him. While serving on the Wasilla City Council, Steve Menard was recalled after destroying a hotel room while traveling on city business and directing the hotel to “bill it to the city.” He is not a factor in this election.
Andrew Wright, just doesn’t appear to be campaigning. We were not able to find a campaign website or social media presence and he hasn’t shown up at the Valley candidate forums and other political events we checked. There is no reason at this time to see him as a factor in this race.
Correction — Andrew is part of a father/son tandem running for congress and state house on a “Save the PFD” platform.They jointly claim the Facebook pages Fight4PFD and Wright For Alaska. The largest following either of those pages has is 26 “likes” and from viewing Mr. Wright’s comment at the bottom of this story he claims significant campaign activity as a result of having put up 11 yard signs. I apologize for missing the connection with his father’s campaign and facebook pages but based on the information he has provided our analysis that he is not a significant candidate, stands.
That brings us to the two serious candidates in HD 10, Rep. Wes Keller and David Eastman.
Keller first took office in 2007 when he was appointed by Gov. Sarah Palin to fill the seat opened by the resignation of disgraced Representative Vic Kohring following Korhing’s indictment on federal bribery and extortion charges. Keller wasn’t new to the Legislature, however, having served as a staffer for conservative stalwart Sen. Fred Dyson from 1999-2007.
This incumbent wouldn’t seem at first glance to be vulnerable. He is both socially and economically as conservative as his district and is a team player with the Republican establishment and House Majority Caucus leadership. In running for reelection four times, Keller has never received less than 64% of the vote.
Keller’s primary opposition looks to come from conservative activist David Eastman. Eastman has an attractive resume for this district. He is a West Point graduate, former U.S. Army Captain, and currently, serves his community as a firefighter.
And, while this may be Eastman’s first run for this state house seat, he isn’t a new face in Alaska Republican politics. He previously ran in a three-way race for state senate against current Senator Click Bishop and former Senator Ralph Seekins, receiving 21.89% of the vote.
He also served for a time as the campaign manager for the insurgent U.S. Senate candidacy of Joe Miller in 2010, has been an active thorn in the side of former Alaska Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich on the party’s State Central Committee for much of the last decade, and was one of the organizers of right-wing activists who thought they had successfully wrested control of the Alaska GOP from Ruedrich’s hands in 2012 by electing Russ Millett as the party’s chairman.
This is simultaneously one of the easiest and most difficult races to rate. The district is a lock for a Republican victory, but the Republican primary is difficult to gauge.
On one hand, Eastman is an organized, energetic, and articulate young candidate who sports the backing of the Mat-Su based right-wing group Alaska Republican Assembly. That means he is a real candidate who could win a crowded 4-way primary.
On the other hand, Keller is a likable incumbent who can’t be pegged as “not conservative enough.”
Were neither of these candidates the incumbent, I would probably rate the race as leaning towards Eastman. This is an election cycle where his fresh face and uber-conservative credentials should be hard to beat.
However, Eastman has made some enemies in the Republican establishment by virtue of his battles with Ruedrich. While those folks may not be the world’s biggest fans of Keller, they will likely go out of their way to prevent an Eastman presence in the Capitol.
Keller is also a proven vote getter and conservative voice in the district and as far as I can tell no one is clamoring for his ouster.
Republican Primary Rating: Toss-Up
General Election Rating: Solid Republican
***Note: Race ratings are given on a patent-pending scale of Toss-up, Lean, Likely, Solid.***