Sara Hannan targets true blues in House District 33

Sara Hannan, a Democrat running for the Alaska House of Representatives, hangs a campaign flyer on a door in downtown Douglas on July 20. (Photo by Jacob Resneck/KTOO)

Democrat Sara Hannan is making a run for House District 33 being vacated by Rep. Sam Kito III. She’s raised the most money of her primary opponents, and hopes to eventually challenge independent Chris Dimond in the general election.

Sara Hannan attends a student walkout protest outside the Alaska Capitol building in Juneau on Wednesday, March 14, 2018. Hannan is a candidate for statehouse.

Sara Hannan attends a March 14 student walkout protest outside the Alaska Capitol building in Juneau. (Photo by Mikko Wilson/KTOO)

On one of the hottest days of the year, Hannan and campaign volunteer Bob Banghart knocked on doors of registered Democrats in downtown Douglas.

Few were home to meet the candidate on such a warm July day.

“They’re enjoying summer,” Hannan said. “I’m enjoying summer too, just taking walks that aren’t on my usual hike.”

The pair work off a list of likely voters compiled by the Alaska Democratic Party. It’s part of a $2,000 package of coordinated campaign materials compiled by the Alaska Democratic Party.

“In politics, it’s about finding the people whose minds aren’t made up,” Hannan explained, “identifying who your supporters are and identifying who needs information to make a decision.”

That’s because House District 33 is a contested primary: there will be four names on the ballot, though James Hart of Haines has dropped out.

The victor faces independent Chris Dimond in the general election; there’s no Republican running.

“This is a very consistently liberal district,” Hannan said. “It had a Bernie (Sanders) turnout, it voted for Hilary Clinton, so in a state that’s ‘R’ it’s a very liberal voting district.”

Most of her career Hannan’s worked in education. She was a teacher for more than 20 years at Juneau-Douglas High School. After retirement, she ran the tutoring program at Juneau’s nonprofit The Learning Center for about a year.

She’s not new to this game. Decades ago she worked as a legislative aide and also coordinated Fran Ulmer’s successful run for lieutenant governor in 1994.

“I met Sara Hannan in the late ’80s, probably when I was a legislator representing downtown Juneau,” said Ulmer, also a former Juneau mayor.

Ulmer recalled Hannan as someone involved in civic causes and, later, as one of her kid’s high school teachers.

“And I would just have to say that Sara’s someone with a lot of common sense,” Ulmer said. “Someone who was very hardworking and someone who loved to engage with community people about trying to make Juneau a better place.”

Alaska House of Representatives candidate Sara Hannan and campaign volunteer Bob Banghart get their bearings July 20 while canvassing neighborhoods in Douglas. (Photo by Jacob Resneck/KTOO)

On the issues, Hannan is on the liberal side of the Democratic mainstream. She caucused for Bernie Sanders and supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

She supports single-payer health care touted as Medicare for all.

Other priorities she lists are free public education and conservation of fisheries. She and her husband sell locally caught fish using the farmers market model.

Hannan said the Alaska she knew as a young girl in Anchorage was a lot more politically liberal than many realize today.

“We were a Democratic state until oil,” she said. “You know, and even in our early years of oil we were a Democratic state. Until the industry became resonant and that really pushed us to being an ‘R’ state.”

She’s plain-speaking but has a grasp on policy that shows she can get into the weeds.

“We cannot wait until our savings is gone to institute an income tax on our people and generate some revenue to meet the gap for operating needs,” Hannan told a room of well-heeled lawyers assembled for a Juneau Bar Association luncheon. “I truly believe that we have cut state government to the level that we’re starting to cripple communities and we can’t just cut it more and expect our communities to thrive.”

House District 33 includes downtown Juneau and Douglas, where Hannan lives. It’s also Haines, Skagway and smaller coastal communities like Gustavus.

Hannan opposed the now-defunct Juneau Access Project that would’ve extended the capital city’s highway up Lynn Canal. Instead, she said she advocates investment in ferries.

But, as she explained at a bar association forum, she’s skeptical about some of the proposed ferry reforms.

“Because it looks like some of that tariffing structure really is just a cost-shifting to some of our smallest and poorest communities having to carry a bigger share because their service legs are more expensive to do,” Hannan said. “You’ve got a leg to Bellingham that’s very profitable, but now you’ve got a leg to Angoon that’s not a very profitable run.”

Shoe-leather canvassing is important even though campaign filings indicate she’s out-raised her primary opponents, bringing in around $30,000 through July 20.

Most of her campaign cash was from individuals giving $100 or less, though she received $200 from Mark Begich, the former U.S. senator who’s running for governor.

Whoever wins the Aug. 21 primary faces Dimond, who according to public filings, has already accumulated more than $52,000 through July 20.

Early voting has already begun.

For more candidate profiles and election information, visit ktoo.org/elections

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