A Haines Republican is the first candidate to file for Sitka’s new House seat. The district also includes more than a dozen smaller Southeast communities, such as Pelican, Kake, Angoon and Port Alexander.
Bill Thomas has put in his paperwork for the 2012 primary election. He’s spent the past seven years representing House District 5, which includes about 30 small Southeast Alaska cities and villages from Metlakatla to Cordova. Redistricting combines Sitka, which is now part of District 2, with much of Thomas’ current district. The new number is 34.
He says he knows it will be a difficult race, since Sitka will be the largest community in the district.
“It’s going to be a challenge but it’s nothing any different than going to 30-some community seeking election or re-election. I guess I get to make one stop instead of an additional five or six,” he says.
Sitka is currently represented by Wrangell Republican Peggy Wilson. Her hometown is in a new district that includes Ketchikan. If she runs for re-election, she could face Ketchikan Republican Kyle Johansen. He faces a recall effort organized by members of his own party.
Thomas is a commercial fisherman, former lobbyist, and a board member of the Sealaska regional Native corporation. He says he thinks he’ll do well in Sitka.
“I expect to get a challenger, so I have to work a little harder. But I believe with my background, leadership skills and leadership position that I have. Being a Vietnam veteran, with the Coast Guard base there, a fishermen, which is a huge community there. And there’s a good population of Alaska Natives there also,” he says.
Thomas is co-chairman of the House Finance Committee. That puts him in charge of assembling the state’s operating budget, and gives him influence on the capital projects budget.
He says he’ll be running on his record.
“I think we’re achieving a lot in the district as far as meeting the needs of rebuilding the infrastructure we have. And trying to meet the other goals of the communities. I don’t set an agenda. They tell me what they want and I believe I’m in a position to continue to help the district, whether it’s my old one or the new one,” he says.
Thomas filed paperwork for his old district as well as the new one. That’s because the redistricting plan faces challenges in court.
Ketchikan Republican House member Kyle Johansen has also filed for re-election.
The election is in 2012, with an August primary and a November general election. Other candidates have until next June to file.