Independent candidate Evan Eads announced on Friday night that he has dropped out of the race for Senate District B and endorsed fellow independent candidate Marna Sanford for the seat held by soon-to-be-former-Sen. John Coghill.
Eads, a local businessman and new entrant to politics, made the announcement in the closing comments of a candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters. He said he believed that withdrawing and backing Sanford, who currently serves on the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly, is what’s best for the state.
“The path forward in our state requires sacrifice, there’s no doubt about that. The path forward requires following our constitutional mandates. I have determined that sacrifices I can make, personally this late in the game, I’m going to be dropping out of this race,” he said, “And I didn’t decide until this evening, but I’m going to be endorsing Marna Sanford. The reason for that is I believe we can work together, I believe she will incorporate my ideas for the future of our state in looking for our resource development, targeting that, because without that we have no future. I look forward to working with her going forward.”
Senate District B is a diverse district that covers North Pole, Goldstream Valley, Farmers Loop and part of Badger Road. It’s been long represented by Sen. John Coghill, who was narrowly defeated by Robert Myers in the Republican primary this year amid a surge of far-right anti-incumbent energy.
Myers has advocated for a full dividend and deep cuts to state services, including former Dunleavy budget director Donna Arduin’s plan of draining funds like the Power Cost Equalization fund.
Sanford has presented a more moderate, somewhat progressive approach of balancing the budget with new revenues in addition to cuts to state government. In her closing comments on Friday night, she said the state has been cutting for years and is doing so at the expense of its future.
“I will not stand by while we make continued cuts to our educations services, our university and our health care services, which are vital to healthy Alaskans,” she said.
In a prepared statement released on Saturday morning, Sanford said appreciated Eads’ decision.
“I am humbled by Evan’s support and have an enormous amount of respect for the amount of work he put into this race. We cannot deny the toll it takes on the candidates, their families, and their personal lives,” she said. “The choice now before voters is an interesting one. My remaining opponent supports cutting our University, ¼ of our education budget, health care and so many other vital services Alaskans depend on while on the other hand saying he supports those same programs. We can’t afford shaky leadership, we need experienced and responsible legislators down in Juneau.”
The official withdrawal deadline for the ballot has long since passed, meaning Eads will remain on the ballot alongside Sanford and Myers. But while some candidates who withdraw stay largely silent for the remainder of the campaign, Eads has set out to make the case for Sandford with an appearance on KJNP Radio and on his social media.
“Our work is not complete. The election is just ahead. And the future of our Great Land is at stake. If you have supported #EadsForAlaska we hope you will join us in rallying to support #SanfordForSenate,” he wrote on a Facebook post. “It’s time to put people over party. It’s time to put principles over partisanship. It’s time to work together to build a better future in this land that we love.”
Why it matters
There was an incredible amount of pressure on Eads to withdraw following Coghill’s defeat in the primary election in order to give Sanford, a more established candidate with broad backing, a clear shot at defeating Myers. That didn’t come to pass before the deadline to lock in the ballot, but it’s always better late than never.
At the very least, it seems like there’s little lingering animosity between Eads and Sanford as Eads got to work this weekend supporting Sanford’s bid. That’s significant because other candidates who’ve withdrawn have done so with tepid endorsements of other candidates.
For Eads, it’s likely a smart move. By most accounts we’ve heard is that he’s a respectable and promising candidate, just not at the level of Sanford right now. By stepping aside now, Eads has earned some good will and respect for whatever he decides to do next (though folks would’ve preferred he made this decision a long time ago).