Political newbie and Democrat Clare Ross stepped into Alaska's political arena last week with her official announcement to challenge Anchorage state Rep. Lindsey Holmes in the 2014 election.
Ross announced her official filing for candidacy on Wednesday for House District 19, encompassing the Anchorage neighborhoods of Sand Lake, Spenard and Turnagain Arm. She will be running against Holmes, formerly a Democrat, who switched to the Republican Party days before the legislative session began in January.
"When Lindsey switched parties this year, I was really frustrated, but I didn't think I'd be the one to go up against her," Ross said.
While Ross had voted for Holmes in the past and supported her work, Holmes' votes against an education amendment, and in favor of Parnell's oil tax cuts, were "two issues that I felt she switched on," Ross said.
A month ago, a friend mentioned that Ross should run for State House. She balked at first, but then thought, "You know what, I'm what Alaska needs right now."
Ross, 35, is originally from Seattle. She first ventured to Alaska in 1996, working for Gray Line in Skagway during her college summers. "Each summer a couple more people would stay for the winter," she said.
In 1999, as she got set to graduate with a Biochemistry and Molecular Biology degree from Reed College in Portland, she realized she wanted to follow suit, and decided to move to Alaska.
Ross drove up to Seward that year, where she worked for a sport-fishing company and cannery, before moving to Palmer to work for the USDA researching plant virology. She wound up in Anchorage in 2002, where she worked at the Alaska Center for the Environment for 6 years before heading to the Anchorage Public Library to work as the development director.
Ross and her husband Chad have lived in the neighborhood of Sand Lake for the past five years. She described herself as well-connected but un-entrenched in the political scene. She wants to "start a new conversation in Juneau," but says she is still figuring out her exact platform.
Some of that platform will be constructed in the next few weeks, as Ross heads door-to-door to figure out what her neighbors' biggest concerns are. She has just started on the long campaign trail ahead, with a handful of volunteers enlisted to help her, but so far lacks the appropriate bank account to assemble a war chest.
Ross' work with the Anchorage Public Library includes fundraising, though, so she'll "hit the ground running" once everything is in place, she said.
She has received an endorsement from former Anchorage School Superintendent Carol Comeau, who said in Wednesday's press release, "Clare is a champion of our youth and cares about quality schools, so our children can achieve their dreams and help Alaska remain competitive in a digital economy."
Ross said the "old guard," long-time political incumbents, are unaware of the young professionals who are working across Alaska to shift the state's economic and political landscape.
Her announcement harkens back to another political shakeup by political unknown Nick Moe, who challenged Anchorage Assembly member Ernie Hall and narrowly lost a write-in campaign that was thrown together on short notice after Hall cut off testimony on a controversial ordinance designed to limit the power of labor unions that do work for Alaska's largest city.
"Hopefully I'm part of a growing trend," Ross said.
Contact Laurel Andrews at laurel(at)alaskadispatch.com