Vince Beltrami, the state's most prominent union official, filed to run for an Alaska Senate seat Tuesday, saying he was compelled to mount a campaign because of "hyperpartisanship that's had Juneau in a perpetual gridlock."
Beltrami, a lifelong Democrat until he changed his registration to nonpartisan two years ago, said he would run as an independent. And he railed against his likely opponent, incumbent Anchorage Republican Sen. Cathy Giessel, calling her one of the biggest contributors to the Legislature's partisan divide.
"She's catering to the furthest right element in the Alaska political landscape," Beltrami said in a phone interview Tuesday. "I intend to offer bold leadership, not blind partisanship."
Giessel, in a phone interview Tuesday, declined to specifically address Beltrami's comments, and she said she didn't need to hear them relayed by a reporter.
"I don't need to listen to negative stuff. This is about positive things that I intend to do for the state and have been doing for the state," Giessel said. She added, referring to Beltrami: "This is my fourth election in six years and he's put his people up against me every time. I guess he decided it was his turn to stand up and go to bat. So, game on."
Beltrami has been president of the Alaska AFL-CIO, the umbrella labor organization made up of dozens of affiliated unions, since 2006.
The group has a near-ubiquitous presence in state politics and campaigns; Beltrami is currently co-chair of Alaska's Future, a group that's lobbying the Legislature to use the earnings of the Permanent Fund to help cover the state's $4 billion budget deficit.
He said he would keep his AFL-CIO position like other lawmakers work for oil companies outside of the legislative session.
"Just like Peter Micciche and Kevin Meyer keep their ConocoPhillips jobs, I would have no intention to abandon that job," Beltrami said, referring to two Republican senators.
Giessel won her last election, in 2014, with 55 percent of the vote. Her Democratic opponent, Harry Crawford, received 45 percent.