The last two sessions state Rep. Mike Chenault has served as Speaker of the House in the Alaska State Legislature have been anything but easy.
“It has its rewards and it also has its headaches,” the Republican from Nikiski said. “Whenever you are dealing with not only 40 members of the House, but you are having to deal with the Governor and the Senate body, sometimes you get beat up. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.”
Chenault will likely be headed back to Juneau for another round in that fight as he currently has no challengers in Tuesday’s primary election or the general election. Should he be re-elected and if the Republicans still hold the majority in the House, he said he will run again to be the Speaker — one of the top spots in the Legislature he has held since 2009.
“I guess the reason I am still running is because I think I’m still effective,” he said. “I’m in a position to help not only my communities, but help the Peninsula and help Alaska and forge a future for our kids.”
Chenault was first elected to the Legislature in 2000 and is now running for District 28, which covers Nikiski, Salamatof, Sterling, Hope, Cooper Landing, Seward and the eastern Peninsula.
He said his campaign has been going smoothly as he travels the area meeting residents “to make sure people know who I am and what I’ll attempt to do for them and try to take care of their issues.”
The House, Chenault said, has been able to pass good legislation that “for whatever reason the other guys either couldn’t or wouldn’t take up.”
“If the Senate changes then maybe we actually get something done in the next couple of years,” he said.
Regardless, Chenault said his top priority remains finding a long-term energy supply for the area — a gas pipeline.
“I’m not sure where it will go or how big it will be, but I think that we need to do everything we can to build the infrastructure to move Alaska forward for the next 100 years,” he said.
Second and third will be finding and creating efficiencies in the operation of state government and finding a solution to the oil tax puzzle that dominated the legislature last session.
Chenault said he is also concerned with local fisheries, their management and this year’s low run of king salmon.
“We need to determine what’s going on with our fisheries, are our fish being intercepted and if they are being intercepted, by whom and how do we address that issue?” he said.
Moreover, he said he wants to look at the overall “fitness of the fish” and find ways to better selectively harvest one stock while preserving the other.
“We’ve got to get all of these groups together and determine how we can quit fighting over the resource and how do we move forward where everyone can participate and everyone has an opportunity to provide a living for their families,” he said.
Editor's note: This story has been clarified to reflect Mike Chenault's tenure as Speaker of the House.
Brian Smith can be reached at email@example.com.