McGuire withdraws from lieutenant governor race just before filing deadline

Richard Mauer
Richard Mauer

Alaska Sen. Lesil McGuire said Monday she's withdrawing from the Republican primary for lieutenant governor, citing concerns about how the race would interfere with her family life.

Shortly before the 5 p.m. filing deadline for the August primary election, McGuire, R-Anchorage, left the Republican field to the other leading contender, Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan.

One other prominent Republican who has frequently been mentioned as a candidate for lieutenant governor, Senate President Charlie Huggins, said Monday he wasn't interested in the job and wouldn't file.

Speaking of her 8-year-old son, Grayson, McGuire said, "I have missed two weeks of this first season of coach-pitch baseball already."

In a text message, she also said she thought she could be more effective in the Senate than in the largely ceremonial post of lieutenant governor, which has few responsibilities other than to be prepared to step into the state's top executive job if something happened to the governor.

In a late filing Monday, former Senate President Mike Miller, a conservative Republican from North Pole, filed as a primary challenger to Sen. Click Bishop of Fairbanks, one of the Senate's moderate Republicans and a former labor commissioner under Gov. Sarah Palin. Conservatives were annoyed with Bishop for opposing constitutional amendments that would have granted school vouchers and packed the committee that screens judicial candidates with political appointees. He also opposed House Bill 77, the measure that would have granted unprecedented powers to the commissioner of natural resources to promote development. None of the measures made it out of the Senate in 2014.

Democrats, who have been a small minority in both chambers of the Legislature, are contesting nearly every Senate and House seat, though they are starting far behind if they hope to become a more significant factor in 2015: The Senate in the previous Legislature was 13-7 in Republicans' favor, and the House was 26-14.

The Democratic Party's state executive director, Kay Brown, said before leaving for yoga class Monday evening that the party has a great slate of challengers who will favor education and oppose legislators who approved such unpopular projects as the Legislature's downtown office renovation.

Republicans were just as hopeful about maintaining or increasing their lead. Party Chairman Peter Goldberg, reached as he was scrambling down from a hike on Flattop, said, "I'm happy with this slate -- we have some good people that are running."

According to the Alaska Division of Elections, as of 1½ hours after the 5 p.m. filing deadline, the McGuire withdrawal was the most significant change to the August primary lineup. The names of some late filers may still emerge from the Elections Division.

Normally senators have four-year terms, and in any given election, half -- 10 members -- are up for election. But because some had significant changes to their districts with the 2013 redistricting plan, only six are not facing election: four Republicans, including McGuire and Huggins, and two Anchorage Democrats (Bill Wielechowski and Johnny Ellis).

Three incumbent Republican senators have no Democratic challenger: Mike Dunleavy of Wasilla, Peter Micciche of Soldotna and Gary Stevens of Kodiak. Three incumbent Democrats are running without Republican challengers: Berta Gardner of Anchorage, Lyman Hoffman of Bethel and Donny Olson of Golovin.

In the House, Democrats are giving free passes to only three incumbent Republicans, two in heavily Republican districts: Lynn Gattis of Wasilla and Dan Saddler of Eagle River. Paul Seaton, Homer's moderate Republican, is also without a Democratic opponent.

Eight Democratic seats, half in Anchorage and half in the Bush, are without Republican opponents (Andy Josephson, Harriet Drummond, Les Gara and Chris Tuck in Anchorage, Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham, Bob Herron of Bethel, Neal Foster of Nome and Bennie Nageak of Barrow). Gara has a Democratic primary opponent (Robert Benton), as does Nageak (Dean Westlake of Kotzebue).

Both parties are contesting each open seat in the House and Senate.

Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, is facing a primary challenge from Republican DeLena Johnson of Palmer for Senate District F, created by redistricting. The winner will face Democrat Patricia Chesbro of Palmer.

Sen. Hollis French is vacating Senate District K for his Democratic run for lieutenant governor. Rep. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, is hoping to replace him, as is previous House candidate Clare Ross.

Newly created House District 6 is being sought by Democrat Wilson Justin of Slana and two Republicans: Dave Telerico, Fairbanks, and Tad Dunning, Tok.

Two Republicans, Ron Arvin and Cathy Tilton, both of Wasilla, are vying to replace Stoltze in House District 12. The Democrat is Gretchen Wehmhoff of Chugiak.

Democrat-turned-Republican Lindsey Holmes' decision to not run again in House District 21 opened that race to Democrat Matt Claman, a former Anchorage Assemblyman and interim mayor, and Republicans Matt Fagnani and Anand Dubey.

In House District 22, vacated by Costello, former Anchorage assessor Marty McGee is running as a Democrat. Three Republicans want the seat: Liz Vazquez, David Neese and Sherri Jackson.

In Kodiak, Carol Austerman, the daughter of retiring Rep. Alan Austerman, a Republican, is hoping to replace her father, as are two other Republicans, Louise Stutes and Rich Walker. The Democrat in that race is Jerry McCune of Cordova.

Three Southeast Republicans are hoping to replace retiring Rep. Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell, as is one independent.

NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said a Democrat had filed in Southeast Alaska for the House seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell. That candidate, Dan Ortiz of Ketchikan, is running as an independent, while three Republicans are in seeking nomination in the August primary. Also, Rep Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, was left out of a list of Democrats with no Republican opposition. Cean Stevens, who lost as a Republican to Tarr in 2012, is running as a Libertarian against her in 2014.

Reach Richard Mauer at or 257-4345.


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