Political newcomer Steve Handy is running in the Democratic primary for House District 33.
When Steve Handy recently stood up in front of the Juneau Bar Association, this was his self-introduction.
“My name is Steve Handy. I’m a father, a veteran, a lifelong student and an avid snowboarder,” Handy told the room.
So when I called to make an appointment, the “avid snowboarder” suggested we meet at the Eaglecrest Ski Area.
“I have very strong ties to the mountain here,” Handy said by way of explanation of his choice of venue. “It’s one of my decisions to come to Juneau in the first place when I came up here to work.”
That would have been in the mid-90s when Handy worked as a project manager for a niche telecom company. He learned those tech skills after four years as an enlisted airman in the U.S. Air Force.
“The company that I worked for, we built what is now the backbone of AT&T Wireless’s cellular network,” Handy said.
He said his tech skills could be used in public policy.
“I’d like to apply some of the techniques that we used in network troubleshooting,” Handy said. “You find a problem, and you just keep asking ‘Why?’ until you get to the very end. Granted, sometimes those ‘Whys?’ fork out and you still have to answer each one of those until you get to the very end.”
The 55-year-old Douglas resident no longer works in technology. He recently completed his first year of law school at Golden Gate University in San Francisco.
But then District 33’s incumbent Rep. Sam Kito III announced he wouldn’t seek re-election. That’s when he saw his opportunity and took a year off to run for state office.
In an increasingly polarized political climate, Handy leans on his background as a technocrat.
“I do have an issue with putting ideology over logic and reasoning,” he said. “We’ve seen where that’s got us and I think that’s a very, very wrong direction.”
But he’s not a complete political novice. In 2014, he interned for Alaska Sen. Berta Gardner, an Anchorage Democrat. The following year he was hired by Rep. Louise Stutes, a Kodiak Republican who crossed party lines to join the House Majority coalition.
Stutes isn’t endorsing anyone in the Democratic primary but had kind things to say about her former aide.
“He’s very thorough, he’s very capable and he’s very personable,” she said in an interview from her home in Kodiak. “He has the ability to get along with people and look at both sides of an issue before he determines what direction he’s going to go.”
His platform in many ways mirrors many other Alaska Democrats:
- He favors a state income tax to stabilize the budget.
- He opposes subsidies for oil companies and supports investing in renewable energy.
- He’s more inclined to invest in the state ferry than build a highway up Lynn Canal.
- He supports a proposed state ballot initiative that would expand regulatory protections for salmon habitat.
It’s opposed by mining and energy interests. He said fisheries are a priceless natural resource.
“So, yes we need to protect the salmon. I think that that’s a no-brainer,” Handy said. “Taking a look at those who are opposed to it, just take a look at their objectives.”
House District 33 encompasses much of Juneau, Douglas, Haines, Skagway and a number of smaller communities including Gustavus and Klukwan.
It’s a crowded field in the Democratic Party primary. He faces three other challengers. According to a recent filing with the state, as of July 20, he’s raised a little over $1,100.
His campaign has been relatively low profile with few public events, sporadic social media activity and a sparse campaign website.
The primary election is Aug. 21.
KTOO is publishing profiles of all the statehouse candidates for House District 33 and 34 and Senate District Q over the next few weeks. You’ll also find the profiles at KTOO.org/elections.
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