Alaska Legislature

Alaska Rep. Dan Ortiz, Sen. Click Bishop say they won’t run for reelection

JUNEAU — With just days left until the Saturday deadline to file for office, Ketchikan independent Rep. Dan Ortiz said Wednesday that he would not run for reelection, citing health concerns.

Sen. Click Bishop, a Fairbanks Republican who has served in the Alaska Legislature for 12 years, also announced he would not seek reelection so he could focus on family and gold mining “over the next two years,” while hinting at a future run for another elected office.

“There is still a determination inside me to fix our current path of rising energy costs and the loss of our working-age population. It is clear that addressing those issues requires taking on a bigger role than serving in the legislature,” Bishop said in an emailed statement.

Bishop and Ortiz are two of the most experienced lawmakers in the Legislature.

Ortiz first took office in 2015 to represent a House seat that now encompasses Ketchikan, Wrangell and Coffman Cove. He has served five terms in the Alaska House of Representatives in Democrat-dominated bipartisan caucuses.

Ortiz, a retired teacher and former principal, said in a Wednesday interview that he had decided not to run again in recent days due to “a chronic” health condition. But he declined to provide more details. Leaving the Legislature was the best choice for him on the advice of his doctors, he said.

“What we want and what we need are two different things, and I think that’s probably true in this case,” he said, referencing advice from a friend. “What I want to do would be to continue to serve, but what I need to do is to take care of my health and to take care of my family.”


Ortiz, 65, cited addressing education and the Alaska Marine Highway System as policy areas that he feels are unfinished from his time in office. He said he felt like his advocacy for a permanent school funding boost had helped provide “momentum” for that issue.

As of Wednesday afternoon, only one candidate had filed with the Alaska Division of Elections for the Ketchikan House seat. Republican Jeremy Bynum, a member of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly, said Ortiz’s announcement was a big change for the campaign, but he would wait until after the June 1 filing deadline before saying more.

”I just want to extend my best wishes to Dan and his family, and wish him a sincere thank you for his years of service,” he said in a Wednesday interview.

Bynum ran for the Ketchikan House seat in 2022, losing to Ortiz 52% to 47%.

Before Ortiz took office, the seat was held for 13 years by Republican former Rep. Peggy Wilson. Republicans are striving to take the seat back to maintain a GOP-led House majority next year.

Ortiz said Wednesday that he felt bad about the timing of his announcement with the state filing deadline fast approaching.

“I feel like, had I left the door open for a longer period of time, we might have had a more ready field of candidates willing to step in and give it a go,” he said.

In recent years, the Alaska House has been narrowly divided between Republicans and Democrats and independents, who have typically favored joining bipartisan coalitions. From 2016 to 2022, bipartisan caucuses were in the majority, before a Republican-led caucus took control of the House in 2023.

Behind the scenes, discussions are ongoing to recruit a Ketchikan candidate who could challenge Bynum and bolster the chances of forming a bipartisan House majority.

Grant EchoHawk, a member of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly, planned to run for the Alaska House this year before deciding not to in March. By text message on Wednesday, EchoHawk, an independent, said he would now likely run for the seat, but he would still need to file paperwork with the Division of Elections.

House Minority Leader Calvin Schrage, an Anchorage independent who served with Ortiz in bipartisan coalitions since 2021, said that Ortiz leaving the Legislature would be a “huge loss.”

“I consider Representative Ortiz to be one of the most effective and experienced legislators that we have, whose experience as a teacher and as a senior member of the finance committee benefited not only Southeast Alaska, but our entire state,” he said by text message.

Ortiz and Bishop join Republican Rep. Laddie Shaw and Democratic Rep. Jennie Armstrong as incumbent legislators who have announced they are not running for office in November.

Bishop’s departure

The Senate district represented by Bishop is one of the largest Senate districts in the state, stretching from Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in the south to Gates of the Arctic National Park in the north and encompassing West Fairbanks, the Alaska Highway, Richardson Highway, and villages along the Yukon River, Tanana River, Nenana River and Copper River.

Rep. Mike Cronk, a Tok Republican, said in a text message Wednesday that he planned to run for the Senate seat. As of Wednesday, no one else had filed to run for Cronk’s House seat. A former schoolteacher, Cronk was first elected to the House in 2021.

Bishop did not respond to interview requests after his announcement Wednesday afternoon. In his statement, he said he would be out of telephone service at his family cabin “over these next few days.”

Bishop, a former commissioner of the Alaska Department of Labor, has served on the Senate Finance Committee since 2013.


In an interview on Wednesday, Senate President Gary Stevens, a Kodiak Republican, called Bishop a “salt of the earth kind of person” and said he had previously encouraged Bishop to run for governor.

“I know others have certainly encouraged him to run for governor in two years,” said Stevens. Current Gov. Mike Dunleavy will be termed out from seeking reelection in 2026.

Regardless of the outcome in the Senate race, Stevens said Bishop’s decision not to seek his legislative seat again was unlikely to significantly change leadership of the Senate, which is currently controlled by a 17-member bipartisan majority coalition.

“Being in the minority is honestly not much fun. You’re not very involved,” said Stevens. “Whoever does run, I hope they’re willing to work with Democrats and Republicans and work towards the middle.”

GOP former legislators file again

Several Republican former legislators have filed for office in recent days to serve again in the Alaska House. Former Anchorage GOP Rep. Chuck Kopp filed on Wednesday to run against fellow Republican Rep. Craig Johnson. Kopp, a former police officer, served two terms in the Legislature, starting in 2017.

After a monthlong deadlock, Kopp was one of a handful of Republicans to join a bipartisan House majority coalition and served in a leadership position. He was defeated in the 2020 Republican primary by Tom McKay, a former chair of the Alaska Republican Party.

After the 2022 redistricting cycle, Kopp and Johnson were paired together in the same Sand Lake-area House seat. McKay was elected in 2020, and continues to represent a House seat in South Anchorage.

Johnson has been a member of House leadership for the 33rd Alaska Legislature. As chair of the powerful Rules Committee, Johnson was in charge of deciding which bills advanced to the House floor. He played a key role in heated education debates this year, and stalling a Senate bill to reestablish a public sector pension.


“I chose to run because District 10 constituents deserve responsive representation,” Kopp said by text message.

Johnson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Former Fairbanks Republican Rep. Bart LeBon filed on Wednesday for a rematch against Democratic Rep. Maxine Dibert. Dibert defeated LeBon in a three-way race in 2022 with 49% of the vote. LeBon finished second with 29% of the vote, and Republican Kelly Nash took third with 21%.

LeBon, a retired banker, served two terms in the Legislature. He won election in 2018 by a single vote.

Former Soldotna House member Ron Gillham on Wednesday filed to run for a second time against fellow Republican Rep. Justin Ruffridge. Gillham, a conservative Republican, served one term in the Legislature before losing to Ruffridge with the vote split 53% to 47% in the 2022 general election.

Sean Maguire

Sean Maguire is a politics and general assignment reporter for the Anchorage Daily News based in Juneau. He previously reported from Juneau for Alaska's News Source. Contact him at

Iris Samuels

Iris Samuels is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News focusing on state politics. She previously covered Montana for The AP and Report for America and wrote for the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Contact her at