Alaska Legislature

In a West Anchorage shake-up, Rep. McKay files for Senate and former Sen. Costello files for House

State Rep. Tom McKay, an Anchorage Republican, said Thursday that he will run for Alaska Senate against Democratic incumbent Sen. Matt Claman, who represents a West Anchorage district.

Former state Sen. Mia Costello, a Republican who lost to Claman in 2022, declared she would run for the House seat currently held by McKay.

The shake-up could increase the chances of Republicans keeping a House seat widely seen as a possible pick-up for Democrats this year. Democrat Denny Wells came within seven votes of beating McKay in the 2022 House race.

Costello and McKay filed for candidacy together at the Anchorage Division of Elections office Thursday afternoon.

Costello, a former schoolteacher, was first elected to the state House in 2010. She was elected to the state Senate in 2015. In 2022, Claman defeated her by nearly 600 votes in the Senate race following a redistricting process.

McKay, a petroleum engineer, was first elected to the Legislature in 2020. He said he decided to run for the Senate because he has “a very capable replacement for the House seat” and he’s “not satisfied with the organization in the Senate.”

The Senate is currently governed by a bipartisan coalition made up of nine Democrats and eight Republicans. The majority coalition excluded three conservative Republican members.


“There’s 11 Republicans in the Senate. There’s 13 committee chairmanships, and yet Democrats hold seven of those seats. It seems wrong to me that that’s what’s happening and it’s my objective to get in there and change that,” said McKay.

Claman said he credited his 2022 Senate win to the fact that “the district liked the bipartisan approach that was really focused on putting Alaska first and not being strictly Democrat or Republican.”

“I think that in West Anchorage people really like the bipartisan coalition,” Claman said Thursday.

McKay said that if he and “one or two” other conservative Republican challengers won their Senate races, there could be “a different configuration in the Senate.”

Senate President Gary Stevens, a Kodiak Republican, in an interview Wednesday praised the bipartisan coalition and said that he thought the November election was unlikely to change the leadership in the Senate — even if the majority shrinks by a couple seats.

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

Costello has served as Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson’s legislative director since June 2023. In that time, she said she has paid close attention to the Legislature, advocating for Bronson’s priorities, including a $4 million grant for operating a summertime homeless shelter. Bronson recently lost reelection, but Costello said she had been considering a legislative run since before the results of the mayoral election were known.

Costello said she weighed running for both the House and Senate and ultimately decided to run for the House seat after McKay voiced interest in running for the Senate. Costello said that if she won, she would seek to work across the aisle, but was not interested in forming a bipartisan majority coalition.

Several minority members had in recent months pointed to House District 15 — currently represented by McKay — as one that could be won by a Democrat, increasing the chances of the House forming a bipartisan majority coalition.

McKay was one of several Republicans who voted in favor of a bipartisan education funding package earlier this year, only to later vote against overriding Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s veto of that package. Supporters of the education funding increase had widely said that record could work against McKay in this year’s House race.

Wells, the Democrat tapped as a possible replacement for McKay, has been actively campaigning for months. He said the community seeks “a representative who will break through the extreme partisan gridlock we’ve seen in Juneau.”

“Neighbors in this district are concerned about poorly funded schools, roads, public safety, and significant outmigration of young people and families. They are ready for a representative who will work across the aisle to address the real issues facing Alaska,” Wells said in a written statement on Thursday.

Dustin Darden, a serial candidate who has run for U.S. Senate, mayor, school board and the Anchorage Assembly, also recently registered to run for the House seat as a Democrat.

Republican Liz Vazquez has also filed to run against Claman for the Senate seat he holds. McKay said Thursday that he did not know if Vazquez would remain in the race given his decision to enter, but he committed to dropping out of the race if he came in behind Vazquez in the primary.

The nonpartisan primary is scheduled to be held Aug. 20. The deadline for candidates to file for the election is June 1 at 5 p.m.

Fletcher and Cronk enter Senate race

After Sen. Click Bishop, a Fairbanks Republican, announced Wednesday that he did not intend to seek reelection to the Senate, two candidates formally filed for the seat Thursday, including Tok Republican Rep. Mike Cronk and Fairbanks North Star Assembly Presiding Officer Savannah Fletcher, a nonpartisan candidate.

The filings promised to set up a high-stakes race in what is, as Fletcher put it, an unusual circumstance.


“It’s rare to see an open Senate seat pop up,” Fletcher said in an interview on Thursday.

Fletcher, a civil rights attorney who has worked on several high-profile cases, had been running for Fairbanks North Star Borough mayor but decided in light of Bishop’s decision to campaign instead for the Senate.

“I think advocating for foster youth rights, advocating for folks’ rights to public benefits, advocating for constitutional protections — it’s all stuff that I’m eager to work on in my role in the Senate,” said Fletcher. “It is a shift in focus for me, but it also feels like a natural shift at the same time.”

Through her work, Fletcher says she has gotten to know various parts of the vast Senate district — which covers West Fairbanks and expansive rural parts of Interior Alaska — including by representing every tribe within the Tanana Chiefs Conference.

“I have worked with every single off-road village community in this Senate district as their attorney advocating for their most precious resource, and that’s their families. I have cried with chiefs of tribes. I have celebrated victories. I’ve helped bring children home to their families, and that really bonds you,” said Fletcher.

Fletcher said she had not spoken with Cronk, a retired school teacher who was first elected to the House in 2020. Cronk did not respond to interview requests on Thursday.

Fletcher said the biggest differences between her and Cronk include that she would have voted to override Dunleavy’s veto of a permanent $175 million education funding increase. Cronk was one of several Republicans who earlier this year voted for the funding package, only to vote against overriding Dunleavy’s veto days later.

“He could have made a difference there and instead, he chose to go against what really was in every single student’s best interest,” said Fletcher.


Fletcher also said she would be eager to join a bipartisan coalition in the Senate, whereas Cronk has not publicly said whether he would join such a coalition.

As of Thursday evening, no candidates had filed to run for the House seat currently held by Cronk.

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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