Update: This post has been updated to reflect that Gara has indicated he would consider endorsing multiple candidates for a contested primary, letting voters ultimately decide who’ll fill the seat.
Long-time Anchorage Rep. Les Gara is actively seeking a replacement to take his seat in this year’s elections, but says he’ll stay in another term if a “great new candidate” doesn’t enter the race.
Gara made the announcement on his personal Facebook page Monday night, confirming circulating rumors that the Democrat is ready to step away after 16 years in the Legislature. He’ll only do so, however, if a candidate that he believes will “truly represent” the “strongly progressive-leaning district” enters the race.
“After many years working as your Legislator, I’d be honored to have a bright, hard working person take the turn to represent our district and state. I’m not necessarily dropping out of the 2018 race, but I’d truly prefer to have a great new candidate, who honestly shares the values of the large majority in our district, represent us,” he wrote. “I will keep my name in this race because I do have the energy for another 2 years of this job IF a committed person who will work to win and represent our district’s values doesn’t run.”
Gara said he plans on endorsing one or more candidates for the run, which opens the door for a contested primary that would leave the decision to who could go on to represent House District 20 up to the voters. His post also says he’ll offer advice and resources to candidates considering a run for the seat.
“I hope one of the thousands of you who fit that bill will run,” he wrote. “I would likely endorse that candidate(s), but not one of the perennial candidate wannabe’s, many of whom I don’t think would do right enough by you.”
Gara represents House District 20, one of the state’s most Democratic districts, covering Downtown, Government Hill, Mountain View, Fairview and South Addition. Gara says if he does leave the Legislature, he’ll continue to look for ways to be involved and hints at a potential future run for statewide office.
The announcement clarifies conflicting rumors that have been circulating about Gara’s plans for office. Early in the session, we heard that Gara was in it for one more term but was unsure beyond that, and more recently we’ve heard that Gara was considering dropping out altogether–perhaps at the last-minute to swap with his preferred candidate.
Today, at least, Gara is opening the door for people to express interest in the job, but it leaves him in the driver’s seat for deciding who’ll take over the position. It’s a fair bit better than a last-minute swap that had been rumored, especially given that he’s indicated he’d support a field of candidates for a contested primary, but the idea of reviewing replacements isn’t likely to sit well with some.
Gara’s post does hint at why he’d like to have a say in filling the seat he’s held for nearly two decades.
“You deserve someone who will take the time to listen, and not tell you what to think; who will stand up for your values but not degrade honest discussion into name-calling; and, who will do a job that can only be done well with hard work,” he wrote. “You should want this job to help others, not to fill an ego.”
Either way, there’s nothing stopping anyone–regardless of Gara’s involvement–from entering the primary.