Next step for HD 32 nominees: Interviews with Gov. Parnell

Tongass Democrats' chairman Nancy Courtney & Juneau Sen. Dennis Egan lead nominees Jesse Kiehl, Catherine Reardon & Sam Kito III to Court House Plaza to meet with reporters.

Tongass Democrats’ chairman Nancy Courtney & Juneau Sen. Dennis Egan lead nominees Jesse Kiehl, Catherine Reardon & Sam Kito III (obscured) to Court House Plaza to meet with reporters.

The Democrats nominated to fill Juneau’s vacant state House seat say they would caucus with Democrats and run for election if appointed.

Tongass Democrats on Monday submitted three names to the governor,   Jesse Kiehl, Sam Kito III, and Catherine Reardon, to fill the House District 32 seat vacated last month by Juneau Rep.  Beth Kerttula.

Nine Democrats – all from Juneau — applied for the seat, which represents downtown Juneau and Douglas, Petersburg, Gustavus, Skagway and Tenakee Springs.

The finalists were chosen after public interviews over the weekend.

Former Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho chaired the selection committee. He says everyone who applied represented mainstream Democratic values.

We did a very extensive vetting process, both in the form of questionnaires, background checks and interviews with each of the candidates.  It was a very difficult selection process in the sense that we had strong candidates.

All three of the finalists are familiar with the legislative process.

Kiehl is an aide to Juneau Sen. Dennis Egan. Before that he worked for former Sen. Kim Elton. Kiehl also is serving his first term on the Juneau Assembly.

In my case I can guarantee I’ll be on a ballot this fall.  My Assembly term is up and if I’m appointed to the House I’ll run for re-election there.

Kito and Reardon also said they would run for election to the seat. Thanks to redistricting, House District 32 will become House District 33 this fall.  Its geography will change as well, encompassing downtown Juneau, Douglas, Haines and Skagway.

Sam Kito IIIKito is a civil engineer, who’s been working in recent years as a lobbyist.  He says that would not affect his opinions as a legislator.

 I’m fully committed as a Democratic candidate for the appointment and don’t have any concerns at all about my background as a lobbyist getting in the way of my ability to be a legislator.

Reardon has been a division director in the Alaska Department of Commerce and now works as a legislative aide for Anchorage Democratic Rep. Andrew Josephson.

She says she shares most of the views and values Kerttula represented in the legislature.

I would continue her style of trying to bring consensus of working well with people across the aisle and different regions of the state.

Different personalities, different backgrounds, different strengths.  Botelho said the three were selected because of what Tongass Democrats perceived as their ability to somewhat fill Kerttula’s shoes.

Five years ago, former Juneau Mayor Dennis Egan was appointed to fill the Senate seat vacated by Sen. Kim Elton.  Egan delivered the nominees’ names to Gov. Sean Parnell yesterday.

They’ll be doing their own internal checks of the three candidates, and the governor said that he has every intention of appointing specifically from the list that was submitted by Tongass Democrats today.

Sticking to the list is important to Democrats.  The capital city was without Senate representation for 49 days in the 2009 session, when then-Gov. Sarah Palin refused to appoint the Democrats’ nominee to Elton’s seat.

Kerttula was the only name on the list then. Palin set up her own nomination process and each appointment she made was rejected by Senate Democrats.  On the very last day of the session, Egan was appointed and confirmed.

Egan said Parnell brought that up when he took him the list of nominees to fill Kerttula’s seat.

He doesn’t want a debacle like the last time.

 Gov. Parnell’s office says the Democrats on the current list will be evaluated on competence, character and their history in the district. He will personally interview the nominees.

The governor has 30 days to fill a legislative seat once it has been vacated. Kerttula resigned on Jan. 24th to take a position at Stanford University’s Center for Ocean Solutions. A Parnell spokeswoman says he will make his decision by the deadline.


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