Wasilla Rep. Kurka launches bid to challenge Gov. Dunleavy on conservative grounds

Rep. Christopher Kurka, R-Wasilla, talks about why he's running for governor in a video posted to his Facebook account on Nov. 29, 2021. (Screen capture of Facebook)
Rep. Christopher Kurka, R-Wasilla, talks about why he’s running for governor in a video posted to his Facebook account on Monday. Kurka is the sixth candidate to announce a campaign for governor. (Facebook screen capture)

Wasilla Republican Rep. Christopher Kurka joined the growing list of candidates for governor. 

In an announcement posted on social media on Monday, Kurka criticized Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s health mandates issued early in the pandemic. 

“To the governor in a state already staggering under the alcohol and drug abuse, pot shops and liquor stores meant more than the church of God,” he said. “Walmart was essential, but your locally owned small business was not — the man who promised to stand tall for Alaska and chose to stand down.” 

Kurka said he was targeted in the recent redistricting, which put him in the same district as fellow conservative House member David Eastman. 

“The conservative grassroots of Alaska will not be so easily silenced,” Kurka said. “The political elite and its current governor are about to learn they lost their conservative base the second they allowed liberty to take a back seat to tyranny.” 

Republican Rep. Chris Kurka made an anti-mask speech on the House floor and then removed his mask before he was told to leave on March 15 in the Capitol. (Gavel Alaska screen capture)

Kurka made news in March — less than two months into his first term — when he protested a facemask requirement by removing his mask during a floor speech. Kurka left the floor session after House Speaker Louise Stutes said she preferred that he leave if he wouldn’t wear a mask. 

Kurka is the former executive director of Alaska Right to Life. He introduced a bill in May to make abortion a crime. State courts have said abortion is protected under the right to privacy in the state constitution.

He proposed an amendment to the state constitution that would change how judges are chosen. The Alaska Supreme Court would be reduced to three justices elected by voters to four-year terms. Superior Court and appeals court judges would be elected to two-year terms.

And he proposed another constitutional amendment saying that the state doesn’t recognize federal ownership of any land in Alaska. The federal government owns most land in the state. 

Kurka is calling for an audit of last year’s election in all of the state’s 441 precincts. Under state law, one precinct in each of the 40 House districts is audited.

His campaign website also said he would work to protect a “full PFD payment” and said the Legislature has “stolen the PFD year after year.” And he said he would work to return to Alaskans the amounts that haven’t been paid under the formula in state law. 

The difference between what the state has paid and the amounts under the statutory formula add up to roughly $9,600 per Alaskan over the past six years, a total of roughly $6.2 billion. 

He also said he would work to cut what he called wasteful spending and to lower taxes on small businesses and individuals. He said that state license and permit fees are taxes.   

Former U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller endorsed Kurka. Miller also criticized Dunleavy in a video posted on social media. 

Kurka is the sixth candidate to announce a run for governor. Along with Republicans Dunleavy and Kurka, the others are Democrat Les Gara; Libertarians Roman Shevchuk and Billy Toien; and independent Bill Walker. 

Andrew Kitchenman

State Government Reporter, Alaska Public Media & KTOO

State government plays an outsized role in the life of Alaskans. As the state continues to go through the painful process of deciding what its priorities are, I bring Alaskans to the scene of a government in transition.

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