The race in Senate District E just got a little more crowded.
Former lawmaker Mike Szymanski of Anchorage, a Democrat, announced his intention to run at the weekly Kenai Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday.
He previously represented South Anchorage and Nikiski in the Senate, retiring in 1990. Szymanski also served two terms in the state House.
So far he has one opponent in the Democratic primary, newly declared candidate R. Michael Allegrucci of Anchorage. The primary winner will face one of two Republicans in the general election. They are incumbent Sen. Jerry Ward, R-Anchorage, and Bradley Brown, also of Anchorage.
"I chose to announce my candidacy here because the Kenai-Nikiski area is key to winning the district," Szymanski told the community's business leaders.
He said he was going to make the same announcement at today's North Peninsula Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Nikiski.
Szymanski, a third-generation Alaskan, said he has known Ward since they were children in Anchorage. He said he plans a good clean campaign if he faces Ward in the general election.
Szymanski describes himself as a "Ted Stevens Democrat."
"I find myself philosophically aligned with Sen. Stevens when it comes to such issues as subsistence, fishing and sustainable economic growth for Alaska," he said.
However he did not mince words when he described the Alaska Republican Party as out of touch.
"They came out against bestiality. Well, we have bigger problems out there than that," he said. "When you see Ted Stevens and Don Young condemned at the Republican convention, you have to ask, 'Who is it that's out of step?'"
He said Ward, one of the most conservative Republicans in the state, will have to answer for the actions taken by his party at its convention.
Szymanski said his decision to run again came after a year-long bout with colon cancer, which he said now is in remission.
"During the battle with cancer, I had the opportunity to take a good hard look at life and what is important to me. I am, and have always been, committed to the people of the state of Alaska," he said. "I want to return to public service to actively continue this commitment."
He said his doctor gave him a clean bill of health.
Szymanski said he has had broad support in the past from both Republicans and Democrats and expects to continue appealing to a broader range of voters. He said in his first run for the House he won against an incumbent Republican.
Being a "Stevens Democrat," Szymanski said he has a lot in common with the Republican Moderate Party. He said he's spoken with party founder Ray Metcalfe about the campaign but chose to stay a Democrat.
"I told him that if I were elected, that I would be happy to work with him for the good of all," he said.
He added that the "antics" in the Legislature the past few years is what prompted him to run again.
"I sense that recently the Legislature is distant and removed from the people they serve," he said.
On the prominent issues, Szymanski shows his moderate stripes.
"I trust the people of Alaska to vote on subsistence," he said. "If they vote it down, so be it, we'll work from there."
On budget cutting, Szymanski said across the board cuts are no good.
"Say you cut 10 percent of everything, well, that means you cut 10 percent from public safety and public transportation and education," he said. "We need to cut some of the newer programs first, so vital programs won't be harmed."
The filing deadline is at 5 p.m. today, and the primary election is on Aug. 22.
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