Juneau’s three incumbent Democratic state legislators are all running for reelection, but only one has any competition. Local political officials on both sides of the aisle shared some of their theories about why more people didn’t sign up to run for office.
The deadline for candidates to file to run in the August primary was Wednesday. Sen. Jesse Kiehl and Rep. Andi Story are running unopposed. Rep. Sara Hannan drew one opponent, Darrell Harmon.
Harmon’s party affiliation is undeclared. He could not immediately be reached for comment.
According to a financial disclosure document, Harmon worked three part-time jobs in 2021 related to truck driving. He was also a shareholder with Goldbelt Inc. and Sealaska Corp.
Until recently, Harmon’s Facebook page had public posts espousing COVID-19 misinformation, sympathies for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and disparaging Democrats and medical authorities — along with a lot of apolitical, do-it-yourself videos.
Incumbent Sara Hannan said they’ve never been in touch, whether as an opponent, a constituent or otherwise. She doesn’t recall ever meeting him.
Hannan, who’s a retired public school teacher, is seeking a third term.
“The job takes longer to get up on step than I thought it would, you know?” she said. “And going into my third term, I finally — I feel like I’ve done some good work in the four years I’ve been in, but nowhere near through the to-do list that I wanted to see happen and make change.”
She understands why there aren’t many candidates for the job.
“I think that it’s pretty unattractive. From the social-emotional kind of side of it, you know, the vitriol?” she said.
Likewise, she said she was struck by how many of her colleagues are not seeking reelection. She said she thinks it was easier for legislators to tough it out when Alaska had more money to work with.
“You know, in the days when Alaska had money and you could deliver pork projects home to your district, there’s more attraction, and you’re willing to tolerate more chaos and ugliness,” Hannan said.
Murray Walsh chairs the Republican Party’s precinct that corresponds to Hannan’s recently redrawn House District 4. It covers downtown Juneau, Douglas Island, Lemon Creek and parts of the Mendenhall Valley. Walsh said he didn’t hear from any potential Republican candidates in either of Juneau’s House districts.
“The primary reason is the knowledge that the Democrats have been successful in election after election in both districts,” Walsh said. “In registration, everything. It’s just a strongly Democrat town, there’s just no getting around it.”
In the 2020 presidential election, Democrat Joe Biden beat Republican Donald Trump in both of Juneau’s House districts. It was an 11% margin in one district, and 40% in the other.
“I can hope someone rises up, and if they do, if they’re willing to wear the Republican mantle, we will do our best to help them out,” Walsh said.
That hypothetical candidate would have to run as a write-in candidate in the November general election. Alaska’s new election system doesn’t allow write-ins in primaries.
Cathy Muñoz was Juneau’s most recent Republican lawmaker. She was a moderate and is now deputy commissioner of the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development. She represented Juneau’s Mendenhall Valley in the House from 2009 until she was ousted by Democrat Justin Parrish in 2016.