Alaska Legislature

Former Anchorage Sen. Cathy Giessel, defeated in 2020, will run again in 2022

Cathy Giessel

Former Alaska Senate President Cathy Giessel will run for her old Senate seat in next year’s election, two years after losing the Republican primary to a political newcomer.

Giessel registered with Alaska Division of Elections on Tuesday and announced her decision Wednesday morning in an online newsletter.

“I think a lot of Alaskans would agree with me that we are stuck right now,” she said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. “We’re stuck on some topics that are preventing us from getting real work done that would help Alaskans to have prosperous lives. So I’m running because I know that it is possible to work with all sides, and come to good solutions.”

Roger Holland, the incumbent who defeated Giessel in 2020, has already filed as a candidate with the Alaska Public Offices Commission, which regulates campaign fundraising. The deadline for additional candidates to enter the race is June 1, and Holland said he expects more people to enter the race.

In a brief interview Wednesday morning, Holland said Giessel’s candidacy wasn’t a surprise for three reasons, including her affinity for campaigning and money she kept in campaign accounts after her loss.

“The third thing I think Kathy Giessel has is a total lack of self-awareness on how badly she was seen as doing her job in the last four years of her employment as a senator and her last two years as a Senate president,” he said.

Holland defeated Giessel in the 2020 Republican primary by almost 30 percentage points amid a wave of Republican dissatisfaction over the handling of the Permanent Fund dividend. Giessel was one of seven legislative Republicans who lost primary elections that year.

Since then, Alaskans have approved a new election system that allows four candidates, regardless of party, to advance to the November general election, where a winner will be chosen by ranked-choice voting.

Giessel said she thinks that new system will help her in the election because “polarized political positions will not be as much of a determining factor.”

Two years ago, only Republicans, independents and nonpartisan voters could vote in the Giessel-Holland primary.

Though she plans to run as a Republican, she has endorsed independent governor candidate Bill Walker, partly because of dissatisfaction with incumbent Gov. Mike Dunleavy. She said she intends to campaign as someone who can work across party boundaries.

“My decision to run is based on the belief that we can move forward if we stop being so polarized and labeling people with political labels,” she said.

In addition to the change in the voting system, the boundaries of the Giessel-Holland senate district have changed in redistricting. In 2020, their district included Rabbit Creek, Bear Valley, the Hillside and Basher.

Now, they’ll campaign in a district that includes Oceanview and Bayshore/Klatt instead of Basher and the Hillside. In 2020, Basher and the Hillside went slightly for Giessel; the remaining half of the district favored Holland.

Giessel and Holland each said they don’t think the new boundaries will make a significant difference.

“I don’t think it’s going to change my message,” Holland said. “If they think they can support me as a candidate, that’s great. I look forward to it.”

James Brooks

James Brooks was a Juneau-based reporter for the ADN from 2018 to May 2022.