Fairbanks mayor files to run against state Sen. Scott Kawasaki

Mayor Jim Matherly, left, with state Sen. Scott Kawasaki during a 2019 visit to the Capitol in Juneau. (Courtesy of Jim Matherly)

Fairbanks Mayor Jim Matherly says he’s been thinking for a while about running for the Legislature. He didn’t want to run against fellow Republican Bart LeBon. LeBon represents House District 1, which encompasses most of Fairbanks.

But Matherly says he decided to run for a different office on Saturday, a day after the Alaska Redistricting Board completed re-drawing the state’s legislative districts.

“So I was trying to wait things out, and when I saw redistricting, it seems to be the right time for me,” he said in an interview Monday.

The Republican-controlled redistricting board moved Democratic-majority areas around the city — including the west side, University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Goldstream Valley — into larger and mainly rural districts that extend well beyond Fairbanks.

Matherly says the newly reconfigured Senate District P helped him decide to run.

“So I filed my letter of intent, which means I can fund-raise,” he said, “But I wanted to get my name out there ahead of time, just to let folks know.”

Matherly said that with one more year to go in his second term as mayor, after two terms as a City Council member, it was a good time to take the leap.

“This has been a dream of mine for a very long time,” he said. “And I think serving as mayor for the City of Fairbanks, and council … has given me a lot of good experience, and I’m looking forward to taking that down to Juneau.”

Senator Scott Kawasaki represents District A, most of which would become District P, if the redistricting board’s decision withstands potential challenges. Kawasaki, couldn’t be reached for comment, but he’s also has filed to run in 2022, setting up a likely matchup against Matherly.

But the mayor says he thinks he could do a better job than the incumbent.

“I’ve had to do a lot with budgeting, a lot with employee management,” Matherly said. “I led a city through COVID, and I led a city through many balanced budgets, and I’m looking to bring those skills down to Juneau.”

Matherly describes himself as a “moderate, fiscally conservative Republican” who can join with Democrats to get work done.

“I don’t think people (who) lean too far left or far right get much done,” he said.

The mayor says that if he wins next year, he hopes to continue climbing the political ladder into statewide office, and higher.

“If I’m blessed enough to go to the state Senate, yeah, I’ve already talked to some people about possibly Senate — you know, national Senate seat — Congress, maybe even governor,” he said

But first, Matherly would need to prevail in 2022, starting with the Aug. 16 primary and the Nov. 8 general, which will be Alaska’s first statewide ranked-choice election.

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