Kyle Johansen has represented Ketchikan in the state House since he was first elected in 2006. He’s been a Republican Party regular, working his way up to majority leader, a position with significance in the GOP’s House majority.
But about two years ago, he broke with his caucus over another lawmaker’s committee assignments. That left him out of favor, out of the majority, and on the outs with Ketchikan party officials, who attempted a recall.
This election, Johansen is running as an independent. And he’s doing it without his former party’s backing. In a recent interview at KRBD in Ketchikan, he said it’s one of the reasons he’s only brought in about $6,000.
“I didn’t ask the party for any money. I am basically registered as a Republican and the party is backing Wilson, and that’s as far as it goes,” Johansen says.
Wilson is Wrangell’s Peggy Wilson, who’s represented her hometown, Petersburg and Sitka in the state House for about 10 years. Redistricting moved Wrangell into Ketchikan’s district, setting up an incumbent-vs.-incumbent race.
Wilson has the largest bank account in this race, with a bit more than $37,000 raised. (Scroll down for links to all candidates’ finance reports.)
“I’ve had a fund-raiser since then and I did get some money. I think I’ll be getting some more in. Hopefully $38,000 $39,000 [or] $40,000. I hope that will be enough,” Wilson says.
That’s six times Johansen’s total, and close to double the amount raised by Democrat Matt Olsen, according to state finance reports.
Close to a fourth of Wilson’s money comes from Republican political action committees, GOP legislators and party notables. That includes former Governor Frank Murkowski and his wife Nancy.
The Democratic Party is also strongly backing its candidate, Ketchikan City Council member Olsen. It’s provided about a sixth of his approximately $20,000 in campaign funds.
He says he would welcome additional contributions. But he thinks he has enough.
“More money in the campaign does always make you feel better, but I feel like the campaign that we’ve had and that we’ve run has been well-financed,” Olsen says.
Other political action committees play a significant role in both party-supported campaigns. (Hear a forum with the three candidates.)
About a quarter of Olsen’s funds come from government employee, teacher and construction unions. PACs, including Democratic groups, make up about 40 percent of his fund-raising total.
Almost all the PAC money is from outside House District 33.
“When you talk to Anchorage legislators, they raise their money pretty much in their district because of the high volume of highly-paid people. Ketchikan doesn’t have a lot of people who make a lot of money who can afford to give you that money. So, campaigns cost money and you have to reach out,” Olsen says.
Contractors, seiners, oil company employees and others contributed about another $4,000. That, plus the party money, makes up a bit more than a third of the Wrangell Republican’s campaign total.
“I didn’t turn to anybody for any support. That came voluntarily and I didn’t go asking for it,” Wilson says.
Ketchikan’s Johansen has only one political action committee contribution, from the construction industry group Alaska Build.
About half his approximately $6,000 raised comes from outside the district.
“I accept money from people who think I do a good job from all over the state and around the country if need be,” he says.
Overall, around $60,000 has been raised by House District 33 candidates, according recent finance reports.
That’s less than half the amount brought in for the House District 34 race. That district combines Sitka with Haines, Craig, Angoon and other small island communities. Haines Republican incumbent Bill Thomas and Sitka Democrat Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins are seeking that seat. (Hear a report on the candidates’ campaign finances.)
It’s also about two-thirds of what Angoon Democrat Albert Kookesh and Sitka Republican Bert Stedman raised. Those incumbents are seeking election to Senate District Q, which includes House Districts 33 and 34. (Hear a report on the candidates’ campaign finances.)
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