Redistricting creates interesting pairings for legislative races

Kyle Hopkins

An Anchorage Assemblyman known for his efforts to outlaw smoking in bars and legalize fireworks in backyards is ready to switch jobs.

Dick Traini, 63, filed paperwork to run for the state Legislature Friday, the deadline for would-be lawmakers to leap into races for state office -- all of them in newly drawn districts after reapportionment. Many new candidates made the jump. Some expected. Some surprising.

"I got a call just a few minutes ago," said Harry Crawford, a former state representative. Alaska Democratic Party leaders were on the other end of the line, he said, wondering why Crawford was challenging fellow Democrat Bettye Davis for an Anchorage Senate seat Davis has held since 2000.

By Friday afternoon, several incumbents in both parties faced primary election challengers. Multiple Republicans will battle in six the 19 Senate contests. In two districts, Democrats will meet in the primary.

In the House, all 40 posts are up for election this year. Nearly half involve two or more Republicans, with Democrats meeting in five primaries.

Known as a moderate in city government, Traini is running for a vacant Midtown/East Anchorage seat against Democrat Andrew "Andy" Josephson. The Assemblyman's current term ends in April, he said, meaning the Assembly would select a temporary replacement if Traini wins the state job.

Davis could not be reached for comment Friday. Crawford said the incumbent senator told him in recent weeks that she would "run as hard as she could" to keep the East Anchorage seat.

The winner of that Aug. 28 primary would face Republican Rep. Anna Fairclough of Eagle River in the general election. The district held by Davis includes parts of Eagle River and the military bases under redistricting.

"I don't have anything at all against Bettye. I just think that I have a little better shot at winning that seat than she did," Crawford said.

A consistent flow of new candidates arrived at state elections offices late in the week, said Elections Director Gail Fenumiai. "I think I've certified 15 folks so far today."

Redistricting has combined some districts and created others, leading to unusual matchups. A few of the other new or notable legislative races, according to the division:

• Former Rep. Pete Kelly, a Fairbanks Republican, is running against Sen. Joe Paskvan, a Democrat, for Senate District B.

• Former Sen. Ralph Seekins, R-Fairbanks, and fellow Republican Click Bishop, a former Labor Commissioner, are competing for unoccupied Senate District C.

• Longtime Southeast Alaska Sen. Al Kookesh, D-Angoon, will compete for Senate District Q with fellow incumbent Bert Stedman, R-Sitka.

• Lupe Marroquin, a former city elections coordinator, will challenge Republican Rep. Bob Lynn in House District 23 as a Democrat.

• Former Alaska Democratic party chairwoman Patti Higgins is running against Anchorage Republican Charisse Millett for House District 24.

• Rep. Reggie Joule, D-Kotzebue, has officially withdrawn from the House District 40 race. Four Democrats have filed to compete for the job.

• Rep. Kyle Johansen, R-Ketchikan, has told elections officials he will run for House District 33 as a "no-party" candidate, meaning he would not compete in the primary but will have to collect a minimum number of voter signatures to be placed on the general election ballot, Fenumiai said.

Full list of all the candidates, by district, on the Division of Elections' website.

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